DIY Audax 200km – Nottingham to Luton

Audaxing does seem to be changing how I look at distances and travel. When the opportunity came up to visit some family to help clear out a shed in Luton, my first though was “Wonder if there’s a ride in that?”. Lo and behold, with a couple of well chosen controls it appeared there was a rather nice little 200K available. Started plotting with google maps, but after a few inconsistencies with the length I went onto Ebay and got a copy of Autoroute 2005 (probably much to the delight of my regional organiser) so there now wasn’t any mucking around for distances. The final controls were:

  • Nottingham
  • Averham
  • Newark
  • Bourne
  • Great Barford
  • Luton
A little bit of adjusting on google made the route sane. Dragging the GPX track into Basecamp using Google Cuesheet let me make it a little saner and get rid of a few strange routing anomalies. But as became apparent on the ride, it wasn’t the sanest route possible.
Left work about 12:30 on a glorious sunny friday, which is usually enough to make me happy, but this time I had a bike ride to do as well. Didn’t pick the most scenic route out of Nottingham as I just fancied getting it over and done with. So I blasted (for my value of blasted) out along the A612 feeling pretty good about the turn of speed, though I’d come to regret it in a bit. The rest of the ride to  Newark was just following my usual route that way. Had my first railway holdup of the trip at Staythorpe, though only for a couple of minutes. Newark’s traffic seemed to be at a standstill so I snuck up the inside of a few queues to get through faster. Thought queuing up for a bit I suddenly realised how warm I was without the cooling breeze of motion.
Now onto newish territory for me. I thought this section wouldn’t contain any roads I’d recognise until I got nearer the southern end when hopefully memories of youthful bike rides round bedfordshire and hertfordshire would free me from the tyranny of the GPS. Was pootling along quite happily on good roads till I took a right off the A52 and found myself facing a less than well maintained road.
Quality Audax roads
Quality Audax roads
To be honest it was 2 wheel tracks of concrete with a resonably high green stripe down the middle. There were some official road signs on it, so I decided it probably was a road so set off down it. All went well till the next ‘crossroads’ where the ‘road’ turned into ruts which I wasn’t too happy  about:
Audax roads 2
Quality Audax roads 2
Luckily the map showed a dog leg around the section so I decided to play it safe. Just after the diversion I found myself on what felt like a very familiar bit of road, which turned out that I’d used before on the way to a BBQ in spalding and on the Edinburgh DIY, luckily I paid attention and pulled off at the right point rather than just following. Pulled into Bourne at about 97k for just under 4 hours riding, so was pretty pleased with that. Restocked on some liquids and wraps at an off license. I do love the way that everywhere is so geared up for 2 for 1 offers these days, but everyone looks at you a bit strangely if you don’t take the 2nd one, even when you point out that there’s no way for you to carry it.
So having survived the helpful frienlyness I headed out of Bourne for the next leg which looked good on the map as it appeared to be a straight line heading south. Looks pretty good on the gpx track as well, apart from a slight deviation at a roundabout on the way out. Had my one idiot driver of the ride around here, coming down the A15 at a good rate of knots they slow to let me know that I might hold up traffic in the usual good natured way. How I laughed as I undertook them a mile later as they blocked the land trying to turn right with a larger queue behind them. Soon it was off the A15 and back onto nicer roads. All was going well till I hit the level crossing with the East Coast mainline. 15 minutes I was stood there while 4 passenger trains shot past and a goods train rattled by. Got talking to a motorcyclist while we were waiting (the advantages of not being sat in a box :)) who also does a bit of cycle commuting occasionally, but he couldn’t quite get his head round a distance over 20 miles. Given the major queue that had built up at the crossing and the fact that the road had been quite narrow with occasional passing places I decided to do my best Time Trialist impression and get out of the way as quick as possible.
Fairly uneventful ride then until we hit Elton and a turning for Greenhill Road. In fact this appeared to be a road that’s been turned into a linear nature reserve. Reasonable surface all the way along but with anti vehicle devices (gates and bumps) and some very overgrown brambles as well. Plenty of rabbits out to play in the evening sun as well:
Audax Roads 3
Audax Roads 3

After that I started to hit a bit of a rough patch. All the usual lack of energy, lack of drive and enthusiasm. The going wasn’t particularly tough so I’m sort of putting this down to 3 things:

  • Heat, I’m not a hot weather person
  • Lack of food. I’d not eaten as much as usual while riding, and not much during the morning either.
  • Lack of liquid. I’d not really drunk much at work before leaving. And thanks to a new larger water bottle I’d not been diluting my lucozade, which I think make a difference as I’m not sure if I  need the liquid more than I need the sugar
When I got an attack of hot foot as well I decided to park myself on a church bench and have 10 minutes with a mars bar and a foot rub rather than pushing on to the next stop at Kimbolton. So I had a short a jaunt to Kimbolton where I raided a petrol station, which had no sandwhiches or other food that didn’t need heating. So I stocked up on milkshake, water, coke and lucozdae and headed off. The next ‘control’ was Great Barford and once over the Ouse I’d be back in home territory, albeit home territory I’d not cycled in for nearly 20 years. By the time I’d got to Shefford my mojo had reappeared and darkness had fallen. Onto the back lanes below Luton I came across the last of the dodgy roads for this trip. This one was brilliant, and proper rutted old track which needed riding in the dark. It was actually quite good fun, and as I slowed down a bit it gave me a chance to recover a bit. Once off the track it was all fairly straight forward to climb the last hill and then swoop down into Luton. Really enjoyed cycling through the night again, the temperature was about right for me (no arms or leg warmers needed), but there seemed to be less wildlife around than on the Yorkshire roads.
Was through the front door and being offered tea at 22:30, so that’s about 9:30 for  ~216km, which isn’t too shabby. If I’d not had the bad 2 hours in the middle I might have made up a bit more. Had a good ride, learnt a few things about my metabolism, so all in all a good trip out. GPX has gone to the organiser so hopefuly everything checks out fine. And when I hear back from the LEL ride I’ll know if it’s number 6 for RRTY or the start of another attempt.

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