Audax Calendar

Audax Ecosse 2013 season event calendar – maps, links, details…

Audax Ecosse Events: 2013

See also my 2013 Audax Ecosse interactive map!

I started this as an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the rides I wanted to do in 2013, all on one page. Then I thought it might be useful as an online audax calendar for others too, and have bulked it out with the remainder of the Scottish calendar rides. Where possible I’ve stolen parts of the ‘official’ descriptions, otherwise I’ve had to rely on memory…

You can enter all rides now, via PayPal through the official page link, except where noted otherwise. Generally two weeks notice is required, and rides may fill up far in advance. Please let me know of any errors or omissions.

I’ve bundled up all GPX traces into a zip file which you can download here. (Note that you can download the individual audax gpx traces from each entry). These may or may not be the final routes, so use with due caution!

Tour of East Lothian 100km, ~1400m ascent

Tour of East Lothian

When: 17th February, 10AM

Where: Musselburgh, e. Edinburgh [map]

How much: £6 by post only

Route: From Musselburgh the ride climbs steadily inland to Gifford, then up to the high point on Redstone Rig in the Lammermuirs.

Turn east, then soon north-west as the route descends sharply to the plains. Watch out for “heroic” road surfaces!

The route proceeds to Dunbar for a cafe stop, then returns fairly directly to Musselburgh (via Haddington and the coast road from Longniddry).

Links: Official page, Tour of East Lothian map [unofficial]

GPX: Tour of East Lothian GPX

Forth and Tay 200km, 2500m ascent


When: 10th March, 8AM

Where: Dalmeny, w. Edinburgh [map]

How much: £7

Route: From Dalmeny ride up the Forth valley, crossing to the north side on the Forth bridge, to Gleneagles via Dollar.

Turn east and descend to the Tay, following the coast out past the Tay bridge to Newport.

The return leg visits St Andrews and the Lomond Hills Regional Park, crossing the Forth bridge again to the finish.

Links: Official page, GPS route map

GPX: Forth and Tay GPX

More Passes Than Mastermind3AAA, 200km, 3000m ascent


When: 6th April, 8AM

Where: Symington, Biggar [map]

How much: £7

Route: New for this year… a dramatic ride through the Crawick, Mennock, and Dalveen passes.

Includes a climb to the top of the Green Lowther on Scotland’s highest navigable road, before heading north on the Devil’s Beef Tub.

Not to be missed?

Note that due to crazy snow, this year’s route was modified to be as follows.

Links: Official page, GPS route map

GPX: More Passes than Mastermind GPX

Port Navigation200km, 2650m ascent


When: 13th April, 8AM

Where: Ballachulish [map]

How much: £10

Route: Three ferries and some wonderful west coast scenery!

Ride south along the coast from Ballachulish village to Oban, catching the ferry to Mull.

Take the long way around Mull to the Fishnish ferry, enjoying ocean views on both sides of the island.

A steady climb north from Lochaline is rewarded by the screaming descent by Strontian, followed by quiet roads to the Corran ferry, and the finish.

Links: Official page, GPS route map

GPX: Port Navigation GPX

Merse and Moors4.25AAA, 300km, 4200m ascent


When: 20th April, 6AM

Where: Musselburgh, e. Edinburgh [map]

How much: £5

Route: South from Edinburgh through the Borders and some choice climbs, including the winch up to the border at Carter Bar.

Ride through Northumberland National Park, turning for the coast and Alnwick via (more) steep bits.

The return, on minor roads by Coldstream, Duns and Dunbar, is thankfully less hilly!

Links: Official page, GPS route map

GPX: Merse and Moors GPX

Amulree for Tea150km, ~1500m ascent


When: 4th May, 9AM

Where: Forfar [map]

How much: £6.50

Route: A loop west from Forfar, passing through Coupar Angus, with a 50km loop on minor roads west of the A9 (crossing by Bankfoot and Dunkeld).

Links: Official page, GPS route map

GPX: Amulree for Tea GPX

Lintrathen Loop50km, ? ascent

Screen shot 2013-02-26 at 19.10.44
When: 4th May, 10AM

Where: Forfar [map]

How much: £2.50

Route: An easy run up to Kirrie, round Lintrathen Loch, with a break at Peel Farm, then back on some hillier roads via Airlie and Drumgley.

Links: Official page, GPS route map

GPX: Lintrathen Loop GPX

Glen Isla100km, ~667m ascent


When: 5th May, 8:30AM

Where: Forfar [map]

How much: £5.00

Route: A loop from Forfar to Kirkmichael, outbound via Alyth and by Lintrathen Loch on the return.

Links: Official page, GPS route map (unofficial)

GPX: Glen Isla GPX

Deeside Loop2AAA, 200km, 2450m ascent


When: 5th May, 8AM

Where: Forfar [map]

How much: £6.00

Route: A loop from Forfar through Braemar and Ballater, passing over the mighty Glenshee and Cairn O’Mount climbs.

Links: Official page, GPS route map (unofficial)

GPX: Deeside Loop GPX

Berwick & Beattock400km, ~3800m ascent


When: 11th May, 7AM

Where: South Queensferry, W Edinburgh [map]

How much: £2.00

Route: Getting the miles in… ride around almost the whole of southeast Scotland with controls at Carlisle and Berwick!

Links: Official page, GPS route map (unofficial)

GPX: Berwick and Beattock GPX

The Snow Roads4.75AAA, 300km, ~4800m ascent


When: 25th May, 6AM

Where: Kirriemuir [map]

How much: £10.00

Route: A classic route round the central highlands, featuring the mouthwatering attractions of the Cairn o’Mount, the Cabrach, the Lecht, and Cairnwell, with 4800m of climbing fun.

Links: Official page, GPS route map (unofficial)

GPX: The Snow Roads GPX

A Fyne Cowal200km, ~2650m ascent


When: 1st June, 8AM

Where: Bridge of Weir, nr Glasgow [map]

How much: £10.00

Route: Down the Clyde to the ferry at Greenock, then criss-crossing the Cowal peninsula on some meaty climbs and fantastic lochside scenery…

Links: Official page, GPS route map (unofficial)

GPX: A Fyne Cowal GPX

The Deeside Lass7.75AAA, 600km, 7750m ascent


When: 8th June, 6AM

Where: Dalmeny, W Edinburgh [map]

How much: £10.00

Route: Promising to be a full epic, this ride combines the classic Deeside Loop and Erit Lass routes to create an audax fusion spanning two hilly ranges: the Cairngorms and Lammermuirs.

Lots of AAA points up for grabs, and the figure-of-eight route layout means a return to the start/finish controls for a sleep stop and replenishment.

Surely a highlight of 2013!

Links: Official page, GPS route map

GPX: The Deeside Lass GPX

Tongue Twister300km, ?m ascent

When: 22nd June, 6am

Where: Portmahomack, n of Inverness [map]

How much: £5.00

Route: “300km cycling event starting from Portmahomack, IV20. Controls at Brora, Melvich, Tongue and Crask, plus 1 information control.”

Links: Official page, GPS route map (no map)

GPX: not available

Easter Ross Ramble100km, ?m ascent

When: 22nd June, 10am

Where: Portmahomack, n of Inverness [map]

How much: £2.00

Route: “100km cycling event starting from Portmahomack, IV20. Controls at Fortrose, Alness and Tain.”

Links: Official page, GPS route map (no map)

GPX: not available

Cromarty Cruise200km, 995m ascent


When: 23rd June, 8am

Where: Portmahomack, n of Inverness [map]

How much: £5.00

Route: A particularly flat ride; from Portmahomack down and around the Black Isle.

Plenty of coastal views!

Links: Official page, GPS route map (unofficial)

GPX: Cromarty Cruise GPX

Alston and Back300km, 2700m ascent

When: 29th June, 6am

Where: Galashiels [map]

How much: £5.00

Route: “300km cycling event starting from Galashiels. Controls at Eskdalemuir, Langholm, Gretna Services, Alston, Langholm and Tushielaw Inn.”

Links: Official page, GPS route map (no map)

GPX: not available

Crystal Run1.5AAA, 100km, 1600m ascent


When: 21st Jul, 10am

Where: Musselburgh, e. Edinburgh [map]

How much: £5.00

Route: A challenging route through East Lothian and over the Lammermuirs.

Only 100km but a respectable 1600m of ascent makes this a ride to wake up your legs!

Links: Official page, GPS route map

GPX: Crystal Run GPX

Forres Foray200km, ?m ascent


When: 24th August, 8am

Where: Newtonmore [map]

How much: £3.00

Route: A loop from Newtonmore to the coast, taking in Nairn, Forres, and Grantown.

Lots of really nice roads in a part of the country that is definitely less trodden on two wheels…

Doesn’t involve riding on the A9!

Links: Official page, GPS route map (unofficial)

GPX: Forres Foray GPX

Grantown Gallop100km, ~350m ascent


When: 24th August, 10am

Where: Newtonmore [map]

How much: £2.00

Route: A cut-down version of the Forres Foray, offering a shorter option up to Grantown and back.

Links: Official page, GPS route map (unofficial)

GPX: Grantown Gallop GPX

Erit Lass3AAA, 200km, 3000m ascent


When: 8th September, 8am

Where: Musselburgh, e. Edinburgh [map]

How much: £7.00

Route: A tough challenge on largely deserted roads in the Borders and East Lothian – the first flat leg to North Berwick is just to lull you into a false sense of security!

The route then turns inland for stiff climbs to Innerleithen, more between Innerleithen and Duns, all capped by a transit of the Lammermuirs to finish.

Watch out for the ford!

Links: Official page, GPS route map

GPX: Erit Lass GPX

Dave Harris Memorial3AAA, 200km, 2900m ascent


When: 15th September 24th March, 8AM

Where: Rosewell, s. Edinburgh [map]

How much: £10 by post only

Route: From Rosewell ride south on gently rolling road to the start of the hilly section at Tweedsmuir.

The next 70km includes four significant valley-to-valley climbs: Talla, Berry Bush, Witchy Knowe and Paddock Slack. Excellent for stretching the legs!

A quick visit to Peebles is followed by a main-road blast down to the pub at Clovenfords then return via the A7.

Links: Official page, GPS route map [unofficial]

GPX: Dave Harris Memorial GPX

Ivy’s Mid Scotland Meander100km, 1311m ascent

When: 13th October, 9am

Where: Kirkintilloch [map]

How much: £7.00

Route: “100km cycling event starting from Kirkintilloch, Sports Centre. Controls at Luckenburn and Polkemmet Country Park, plus 6 information controls.”

Links: Official page, GPS route map (no map)

GPX: not available

Bombproof new audax wheelset

I’ve just finished putting the last touches on my new audax wheelset, which will be seeing some heavy action in 2013…

SON Archetype w/ Shutter Precision dynamo… very nice!

I’ve just finished putting the last touches on my new audax wheelset, which I hope will be seeing some heavy action in 2013.

Based around the SON Archetype rim, Shutter Precision SP8 dynamo and a Novatec lightweight rear hub, laced 32h 3-cross with Sapim Lasers, the total weight for the finished wheels is just 1930g. Not bad when you consider it’s saving me around 300g of LiPo batteries on the longer rides… effectively a 1630g wheelset!

I should probably also offset the substantial cost of new batteries I won’t be buying against the cost of the parts (totalling £300.77). I sourced the hubs separately, but got rims and spokes from DCR Wheels in the UK, a pleasure to deal with 🙂


Continue reading “Bombproof new audax wheelset”

Dynamo Hub Weight

Just how much of a weight penalty do you pay with a hub dynamo? Not (necessarily) much at all…

Hard currency illustrates illumination information

I’m building a new dynamo wheel and thought it would be interesting to compare the weight with the Li-Po battery LEDs I used previously.

Based on the Shutter Precision PV8 hub (not the light weight SV8 version), I expected the dynamo setup to be quite a bit heavier, but in fact the weight difference was just 25g.

On the lights themselves, the IQ Cyo is about 30g heavier than the Ay-Ups, but the RSP Astrum is 30g heavier than the Toplight Line Plus rear light, making that a wash.

dynamo_weight2 (1)

Let’s throw in 10g for the tail-light wire and you get 35g – roughly the weight of five 2p coins. If you wouldn’t throw away that much change after a commercial control or cafe stop, you probably shouldn’t try to justify a battery setup on weight grounds alone 😛

(Yes, it’s true that there are many other reasons why you might prefer batteries – I used them exclusively myself, until recently).

Of course, the battery pictured is only just enough battery for one summer night. In reality I took two on all long brevets, which tips the scales in the dynamo’s favour by a cool 100g…

dynamo_weight1 (1)

This doesn’t touch on the two real issues that split dynamo / battery use: drag (which is now the subject of a dedicated article on hub dynamo friction) and efficacy, but I wanted to take a few minutes to illustrate that what many percieve to be a significant downside of dynamo use just isn’t…

Even Wiggle are getting in on the hub dynamo action: get yours here.

Optimising long distance cycling speed

It’s tempting to zero in on a lighter ride (carbon frame, lighter wheels, etc) but is that really because it’s an effective way to increase speeds, or is it just easy to quantify?

Done a brevet or twenty but not as quickly as you’d like?

Go faster on your bike…

The issues are the same whether you’re struggling to make the cut on a 200km, trying to improve your safety margin or build up a sleep buffer on a longer randonée, or even if you’re finishing comfortably within time but want to go round quicker.

Hey – maybe you’re just sensible and want to ride at the same speed as the group, but for less effort!


It’s tempting to zero in on a lighter ride (moving to a carbon frame, lighter wheels, and so on) but is that really because it’s an effective way to increase ultra distance speeds, or is it just because it’s so easy to quantify?

So before you splash the cash on an amazing pair of wheels… stop!

I just caught up with a fairly old topic on the forum: New “Comfortable” carbon frame or steel folding bike for LEL2013? I spent a little time writing a response to that discussion but thought it might be worth developing here:

Identifying an upper bound for weight-related performance gains

It’s rather difficult to exactly quantify the advantage of a reduction in weight because of the complex interplay of static and rolling losses, accelerations, etc. However, it’s actually quite easy to put an upper bound on the benefit, as follows:
Continue reading “Optimising long distance cycling speed”

Erit Lass 200

This is a hilly but rewarding 200km to the immediate south and east of Edinburgh – 3AA points means plenty of climbing!

Apart from helping out in the kitchen for the first night of Mille Alba, I went more than a year after Paris-Brest-Paris without riding any brevets at all.

Ultimately I thought it would be a shame to skip the season entirely and booked onto the Erit Lass 200km out of a combination of nostalgia, interest in a few new roads, and feeling like I was keeping my eye in!

Over the moors to Duns: photos courtesy David Gardiner

I also prevailed on David Gardiner of Laid-Back-Bikes to join me on what would be his first 200km brevet (eventually we’ll work him up to the longer distances!)

Continue reading “Erit Lass 200”

What makes audax different?

Like me you probably have a handful of common routes that you revisit time and time again. You could ride off the beaten track any time you like, but still each weekend finds you wheeling around one of the usual suspects…

A few random observations that have been rumbling around in my mind for a while…

See new places

Like me you probably have a handful of common routes that you revisit time and time again. You could ride off the beaten track any time you like, but still each weekend finds you wheeling around one of the usual suspects…


The experience of riding many audaxes is like combining the best bits of lots of strangers’ favourite rides all in one go. Jink through country lanes that seem like they might end at any moment (but never do), slave up wild passes that are hardly even marked on an OS map (yet the tarmac is in suprisingly good condition), pound along trunk roads that you’d never otherwise dare (yet nobody comes close to grief on) – the full spectrum.

Amaze yourself when you realise it’s possible to ride between major cities on quietish roads in relatively short order – try Edinburgh to Stirling for lunch (via Perth!) and you hardly feel like you’ve seen a soul on the road?

Continue reading “What makes audax different?”

Mille Alba 1000

Scotland’s 1000km audax took riders as far afield as Banchory and Braemar, Berwick and Biggar, with the wilderness and despair of a hundred glens between!

You take the high road. And the low road.

And that other road round the back.

Four loops on Scotland’s 1000km brevet took riders as far afield as Banchory and Braemar – where they rode up almost over ski slopes – to Berwick and Biggar, with the wilderness and despair of Talla and the pass into Glen Lyon (plus a hundred others) in between.

Of course, they also went to Comrie!

Mille Alba

Continue reading “Mille Alba 1000”

Lumotec IQ Cyo dynamo headlight

Dynamo or battery driven, its winning combination of (relative) cheapness, light weight, reliability, and lumens on the road make this a real star.

~£70 shaped beam photon cannon

Dynamo driven dazzler defends against dim drivers

For me, the Lumotec IQ Cyo is the bike light that revolutionized night time riding.

Dynamo or battery driven, its winning combination of (relative) cheapness, light weight, reliability, and lumens on the road make this a real star.

45mph downhill on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, at 4am with 900km in your legs and 3 hours sleep in the last two days? You got it.

Working heavy traffic, blasting windscreens to help keep the rush-hour cretins at bay? No problem.

Navigating a treacherous canal towpath in the pitch black without dazzling oncoming riders? Priceless.

Continue reading “Lumotec IQ Cyo dynamo headlight”

PBP via Tweet

Paris-Brest-Paris, the pinnacle of amateur cyclesport, boiled down into forty-four text messages of at most 144 characters each. Now this is a ride report that isn’t too hard to get stuck into! 🙂

Paris-Brest-Paris, the pinnacle of amateur cyclesport, boiled down into forty-four text messages of at most 144 characters each. High points in green, low points in red.

Now this is a ride report that isn’t too hard to get stuck into! 🙂

(If you’re not familiar with the route, you can take a look at the following map:)


August 16th

  • 1am. So much for getting rid of my sleep debt!

August 17th

  • 23:11 Last chance not to forget anything for #pbp2011… Nope, think that’s it. Argh!
  • 23:48 Ok… Off to bed for the last time before #pbp2011. So much for an early night again!


August 18th

  • 16:50 enroute to #pbp2011 – can he get on to the very British rail network?
  • 18:00 … So far, so good! Suspicious train guard evaded.


August 19th

  • 06:08 “Is that a body, sir?” “No really, it’s a bike. Look, there’s the wheel bag.” #straighttoxray
  • 09:00 Languishing at only 190mph on #eurostar. Makes #britishrail look a bit embarrassing really.
  • 14:19 #pbp2011 – j’arrive! Now ‘just’ the 1200km to get back here!
  • 19:35 Have just ridden the first half hour of #pbp2011 while trying to ride to versailles. Whoops! It’s very nice though…
  • 19:44 Palace of Versaille is ENORME. #thatisall\
  • 20:45 Sacre bleu! My impeccable high school french accent is fooling nobody at #pbp2011!


August 20th

  • 13:15 Roasting hot at bike check #pbp2011. Hope it’s not like this in the week!
  • 21:07 Artisanal pizza and tres cher lager biere at sosta bar, #pbp2011 . Genial!


August 21st

  • 05:26 Enormously epic thunderstorm at #pbp2011. Slept like a log though. Wetter than #pbp2007?
  • 11:09 All at campsite studiously re-re-packing. Shockingly hot and humid again. More thunder tonight? Still, everything’s dried off already!
  • 11:31 Meal in 3 hours then proceed straight to ‘go’! Getting nervous now!
  • 13:50 First of the fast boys are lining up. Some pretty minimal bikes on show. Scorching. 110% humidity.
  • 16:10 Official meal quiet. Giant portions, feel sick! Soon to be en route though- little bit over an hour.
  • 16:12 30 degrees, windproof reflective gilet. Four hours to sunset. Surely not!
  • 23:04 #pbp2011 off to a good start. Surfing tandems to Mortagne in rapid time. Knees holding up so far. No appetite as usual though 🙁


August 22nd

  • 03:15 First control. Feeling pretty wasted. At the front of the bulge i think ? Need to get turned around.
  • 07:36 Next control. Fastest 200 miles ever. Now light but looking grim, good wind though. Way up on schedule. Knees sting. Only 900k to go
  • 15:15 Loudeac, 480km. Knees mostly ok and 9 hours in hand. On for sub-70 obviously (ahem!). Suddenly roasting again.
  • 15:27 Drat. Sleep. 44k to st nic but ~1730 too early. 76k to carhaix, but ~1930 also early. Not going to brest in a day or ride in dark..
  • 21:10 Can the intrepid audax ecosse posse make brest before sleeping?


August 23rd

  • 03:15 93km, 6 hours. Terrible riding. Worst. Decision. EVER.
  • 06:51 Well, on the bright side, only 600km to go. Also the downside. Legs feel good for about 6km at a push.
  • 06:53 Scenes of great suffering at Brest. Even the sun is not rising as it seems it should.
  • 12:50 Carhaix. 7/12ths done. Mad riding over le Roc in thick fog. Much traffic, diesel, moist, cold. 84’s starting to pass, looking a bit moist
  • 16:05 Frites, crepes et cafe at some place I know not where, en route to loudeac.
  • 18:05 Replan working well just now. No queues at loudeac.
  • 18:07  Lesson learned. Instead of riding off through the night for sleep, sleeping here then riding into the night. Thanks to the things.
  • 18:25 Nazca Gaucho 28 is doing the business at #pbp2011 . Picked up an extra hour in hand on the hills between carhaix and loudeac…


August 24th

  • 03:04 It’s all going off. Loudeac to tinteniac in ~3 hrs including the secret control. 85km. Not sure what’s going on, not complaining.
  • 06:33 Fougeres. Flaked pretty badly at the end. 7 hours in hand still. Might sleep but busy. Big effort for a surprise sub 80?
  • 10:13 On a wall somewhere in the sun, sampling the baking. Wishing paris was a bit closer. Although at least it’s not getting further away.
  • 12:00 Narrowly avoided certain death with a spot of recumbent cyclocross. Not an ongoing risk fortunately. Otherwise tres bon.
  • 12:18 We need to average 9.4 to finish in time, but 18.5 to in sub 80. Nobody is sure what to do. There are plenty of hills left, too.
  • 17:59 80km in 5h30 with exploding knees. Mortagne. Still 7.5h ahead of the chop and 17h to get the last 140k in the bag.
  • 18:03 XXL harsh. Ruined husks of men litter the verge, controle, road. never subjected to 90h hell, don’t, or do it with people in worse state than you!
  • 23:40 Knees very bad. Got it in the bag though- 5 hours sleep then off to find a cafe near the finish to wait and torment the statistitions!


August 25th

  • 05:56 Morning coffee, croissant, ready for the last leg. Definately in dreux contrary to the #pbp2011 website. Bon courage tout les monde!
  • 10:17 Argh! Failed by ~30 minutes to join the 89 hour club. 88:20 something I Think. FINISHED. Still got one leg that works, too.


August 27th

  • 17:45 Feeling a bit anticlimatic without a control to chase! Is it really 4 years until #pbp2011 becomes #pbp2015?

To be continued…

PBP: Going Faster

There are four years and myriad assumptions involved in getting to PBP 2015, but I’d like to think I’ll be back and angling for a much faster ride…

I did 88 1/2 hours at PBP 2011. It was exactly what I wanted – the maximum experience, stopping for refreshments from the locals and to join the party atmosphere. With my knee injuries I didn’t have the form for a fast ride anyway, but I ended up pleased with my resolution to get stuck in and enjoy myself regardless.

PBP’s famed shattered husks of men…

I mention this just because I don’t want to seem dissatisfied with the ride or to take anything away from those who choose to ride dans la manière de touristes. But, for my own part I would not go back and do the ride again at the pace I rode this edition.

More than anything, it is brutally hard to be on the road for that length of time. Because the effect of being on the road compounds with every successive dawn, it would be considerably easier to ride if you finished more than a day earlier. At times the only thing that kept me going was the surety that the only thing worse than what I was enduring would be to fail to endure it!

There are four years and myriad assumptions involved in getting to PBP 2015, but I’d like to think I’ll be back and angling for a much faster ride. With that in mind I’ve done what may seem like an excessive amount of thinking now, mainly to get it in writing before memory fades the lessons I promised my sleep-deprived self that I *would* learn at the time.

PBP sleep
Even riding off the front of the bulge, Carhaix was showing signs of the refugee camp it would later resemble…


I asked a few British finishers of PBP 2011 to break down their ride into time on the bike, time sleeping, and everything else. For me, this was:

51:03 + 13:30 + 23:55 = 88:28

The results were interesting. Eleven of sixteen people who responded rode within a couple of hours of 50h (moving time), while their finishing times varied from 60h to 90h. Sleep was rather variable – one rider slept for 12h and finished in 78h, another slept for 4h but finished in 81h. Sleep is a tricky question because while you’re not moving, you are recovering the ability to ride much harder. At all but the very front edge of the ride, it’s far from clear that you lose time when you close your eyes.

For example: I got to Carhaix at the same time as an English couple on a tandem. Having started in the same wave, at this point our average speeds were identical.

The tandem crew slept early at Carhaix (it was not even 9pm), planning to rise and continue in the early hours. I rode on to Brest to sleep, feeling that I’d rather miss the ‘dead hours’ of early morning..

We met back at Carhaix, so again our speeds were identical – but with a big difference.

I had taken 6 hours to get to Brest (of which 30 minutes was spent on a table at Sizun, overcome by exhaustion), spent barely three hours asleep, then ridden back. They had slept for much longer and powered through the night with fresh minds and legs.

I learnt my lesson and stopped very early in Loudeac – I was fast asleep by 7pm and up at 11pm. Quoi! I averaged 18mph from Loudeac to Fougeres…

Time spent at controls *not sleeping* was a closer match to finishing time – three of the four riders who came in under 70 hours spent ~7 hours faffing around. Riders finishing 70-80h spent around 16h off the bike, while riders who came in up to 80h spent around 23h. So as you’d expect for a relatively similar ride time, the time you spend awake but not turning those pedals essentially determines your finish time.

Obviously this is a terribly small sample, so take it with a pinch of salt. Unfortunately the PBP timing mats only tell you arrival time at each control, so it’s not possible to work out for the entire field the proportion of time spent on and off the bike – many will have ridden round in 90 hours without enough time in hand to stop and sleep, while some may have spent as little as 40 hours on the bike but indulged themselves in a lot of R&R!

However, the bottom line for a nippy PBP is that the first priority must be to keep moving, or at least doing things that will benefit your average speed (i.e. sleep!) rather than focusing on your speed on the bike.

I already spent less time on the bike than one chap who finished in 60 hours – but almost 30 hours longer off it…

Chasing Andreas Koerner, who took 4 hours from the recumbent course record.

Cutting off the last bit of slack

I have been looking at GPX traces generously provided by other riders and the second lesson seems to be that you can slash a large fraction of your time with a relatively modest increase in average speed.

If you look at the ride from a robot’s perspective, 765 miles ridden at 12mph is almost 64h, while a modest increase to 14mph yields 54.5h, almost a ten hour saving. For the faster riders, 15mph gives you 51h, but 17mph brings it in at 45h. A one-sleep strategy of 3 hours (Carhaix on the return seems popular) leaves 12 hours for time off the bike at controles to bring in a sub-60 hour ride.

Comparing a 53h ride with an 88.5h ride


With a sub-60 hour (not really a 53h!) ride in mind, I grabbed the GPS trace of a much faster rider and carefully trimmed his ride, and mine, around the control stops, before looking at the amount of time spent at any given speed.

If you look carefully at the two series, the striking thing is the asymmetry of the areas between them. The faster rider spends no significant amount of time riding faster than me above 20mph – the two series track closely with the exception of the blip at 20-22mph. Between 16 and 20mph is where they put the boot in, but the extra time spent is just 3.5 hours. Just look at all the effort I spent on the right shoulder of the graph (the area between the lines) to fill in the same distance. (This is what I mean by slow riders have it harder!)

Losing weight

The bike I rode on PBP this year weighed in at 22.5kg complete with luggage (not including water). I myself was pretty porky at ~80kg (having a chronic knee injury through the summer added about 8kg over my weight at the turn of the year). That’s a total of around 105kg that I was having to haul uphill.

Getting a bag drop, either at Loudeac or ideally Fougeres / Carhaix would make it significantly easier to drop things from the bike (I’ve now done the fully self-supported ride, thanks!) and add the option of stashing things like carbohydrate drink mix and solid rations which would permit the bounce through many controls, and probably be more digestible anyway.

A 70kg rider on a 10kg bike, by contrast, would climb 25% faster (for the same power output). I spent 11 hours riding at < 10mph, which means climbing since even at the finish I was going well over 15mph on the flat. That weight change alone would cut two and a half hours off my riding time, bringing me in at 48.5 hours even if I rode again with shattered knees.

It’s even better than that, though, because with the ability to climb faster, you can stay with much fitter riders and then benefit from a pull on the flat. On this year’s PBP, my 15mph moving average was achieved, with the exception of the first leg, entirely without shelter from a friendly wheel. That’s one of the things which is most impressive about the recumbent riders who are coming in just above 50 hours – they don’t have a paceline of 100 riders to suck them along, like the first finishers do…

So, bring on PBP 2015! 60 hours may be a big ask for what is basically a non-drafting ride (ah, for a peleton of recumbents!) – but if your challenge isn’t challenging… what’s the point?