London-Edinburgh-London 1400km nonstop: pics

Some photos from London-Edinburgh-London nonstop 1400km audax, where I helped at the Edinburgh control for a night.

Edinburgh control overnight on 29-30th

I’m not long back from helping out at the Edinburgh control on LEL 2013.

It will probably take me a wee while to put some coherent thoughts together, but I see no harm in posting up a random set of photos while the event’s in progress:

Welcoming riders in out of the night. A lot of those who hit the control early were absolutely drenched…

… so as you can imagine, towels, showers, and hot drinks were in hot demand…

… while the blankets came in handy for more than just sleeping!

About half of the beds in one of the two dorm rooms. I don’t think I ever want to see another air bed. Ever!

At the front desk, a crack squad of elite volunteers was poised to stamp cards and strike lines.

The main hall. Who needs a royal event when you can get decked out in LEL bunting?

Drying and re-assembling brevet cards (!)

A steady stream of riders kept arriving through the night.

The weather was much better, so perhaps a good time for hardy souls to put some miles behind them.

Half of the Edinburgh bike racks. Not often you see a quarter of a million in bikes sitting about (given some reasonable assumptions…)

I can’t remember if this photo was ‘artfully angled’ or ‘exhausted incompetence’ ๐Ÿ˜‰

The bed system worked amazingly well, considering the demands of sleeping (and waking) hundreds of riders in a continous stream of in-and-outs

Two predatory looking velomobiles parked up outside the Edinburgh Control (Quest and Quest Carbon XS)

the shoe benches were… malodorous! No getting around it…

Front of house, still managing a smile after a billion hours on duty!

More Passes Than Mastermind

A great new 200km audax near Biggar, criss-crossing the Lowther hills in perfect weather!

200km audax ride report

Last weekend saw the first riding of the ‘More Passes than Mastermind’ brevet in south-west Scotland.

A strong field of around 35 riders assembled at Symington to tackle a route that criss-crossed the Lowther hills between Nithsdale and the valley of the Clyde. Top of the billing was an ascent of Scotland’s highest tarmaced road, but a late fall of snow (or just a late winter!) necessitated an change of route:

photo courtesy Russell Carson

Riding south from Symington on empty roads we soon crossed the M74 and reached the first pass, into the valley of the Crawick (a tributary of the Nith). Some sections of this descent had ‘interesting’ surfacing, compounded by almost all of the group still being in a paceline – but by and large it was a lot of downhill for hardly any ascent – winding down beside the river under blue skies… perfect!

A quick cafe stop at Sanquhar allowed the temperatures to rise a little under the morning sun, and after a short hop on the deserted A76 we turned left and began the ascent to Wanlockhead, Scotland’s highest village.

The Mennock Pass is another extremely scenic route and this time there was no question of a free downhill – you have to earn every inch on the ascent! Fortunately it’s not overly steep, and the fine weather continued to keep spirits high. There was, as advertised, quite a lot of snow about:

photo courtesy Russell Carson

Leaving the control at the mining museum we enjoyed a screaming descent to Abington (the village, not the service station for a change!) before turning south, into the wind, for the section to the head of the Dalveen pass.

I spent this section as part of a group of three, taking turns to pull into what was becoming quite a stiff headwind. The roads were still virtually deserted though, with just a few vehicles passing and the sun was giving a good bit of heat. Good times!

photo courtesy Phil Tomlinson, on Flickr

Sooner than we realised the road turned to the west and we found ourselves descending at terminal velocity towards Thornhill – I averaged 22mph for almost eight miles virtually freewheeling, and there’s nothing like free distance on an audax ride! ๐Ÿ™‚

Thornhill was packed with cyclists (more than could readily be accounted for – the locals must have good taste in pastimes) and has an amazing bakery which provided much needed pie and cake.

From there, the route wound through the wonderful Forest of Ae, turning to the east again on deserted roads that kept their interest. The wind, quartering from behind, was still pleasant and the ascent was nothing to speak of.

Oops! Forgot the recumbent this time… I’d feel this error later!
photo courtesy Russell Carson


I had set out from Thornhill alone, as this was my first ride since the Erit Lass 200km (see ride report) almost six months before, and my legs were quite stiff.

I kept a steady 200W and expected to be swept up by a group at any moment, but this was not to be – little did I realise I’d be riding the rest of the route solo.

The return to the north was on a new road to me (the B7020, rather than the more common choice of the parallel B7076, the former A74). It was altogether more pleasant and time whisked by as far as Moffat in a haze of blue skies and forceful tailwind.

photo courtesy Phil Tomlinson, on flickr

Regrettably all this descending had to come at a price, and that was in the form of the infamous Devil’s Beeftub, a long steady climb from Moffat that took me a hefty forty minutes to complete. I really expected to pick up a group here, but suppose the tailwind had lessened the disadvantage of riding solo. I largely freewheeled to 20mph on the descent from the Beeftub to Broughton where the village shop was pleased to provide essential athletic nutrition of a packet of crisps and a bar of nougat (!).

An acute turn in Broughton meant that suddenly I was receiving the full power of the wind, no doubt determined to crush me after such a straightforward and pleasant 190km. The final 16km were an agony of headwind made all the worse by the fact that I was stuck on an upright bike, knowing how little it would normally effect me!

photo courtesy Phil Tomlinson, on flickr

I was really quite glad to see the hall and finishing line approaching. Amazingly I was first back despite my pedestrian effort; I can only imagine the others stopped for a far more substantial lunch!

Excellent soup and pie followed at what proved to be a very friendly arrivรฉe. Others soon arrived (I should have run the risk of stiff legs to share a draft those last few kms!) and unanimously agreed that it had been a great day out on a great route.

Congratulations and thanks to Russell and all the helpers on what was a great route debut, and an event that we hope to see in future years! ๐Ÿ™‚

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”

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”

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

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! ๐Ÿ™‚

(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 ๐Ÿ™


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.
  • 18:07ย  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…

Edinburgh-Preston-Edinburgh 600

A large field of 37 riders assembled on a typically sharp and windy Edinburgh morning for what would turn out to be an epic ride – just 28 would go on to finish….

The weekend of 28-29th May saw the first Scottish 600km audax of the season, and so for many the earliest opportunity to close off qualifying for Paris-Brest-Paris 2011 by completing the ‘grand slam’ of 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km rides.


A large field of 37 riders assembled on a typically sharp and windy Edinburgh morning for what would turn out to be an epic ride – just 28 would go on to finish.

Superficially the route was simple – out of Edinburgh on the A701, through Moffat onto the former A74. At Carlisle, take the A6 to Preston – and then return! But despite one of the simplest route sheets in all of audax and the basic fact that there were only four climbs (two hills in each direction) this was going to be a toughie…

Continue reading “Edinburgh-Preston-Edinburgh 600”