Upping the Average

Rode-Dilton-Westbury-Yarnbrook-North Bradley-Southwick-Rode

It was 20:24 when I set off this evening, the bad weather had all but gone leaving a few bewildered looking dark clouds scattered about the setting sun. Lights on from the start and Hi-Viz jacket, a race against the failing light. From the outset I put some effort in, leaving the village at 24mph and joining the main road 5mph faster than I normally do. Turning off towards Dilton Marsh I was averaging 17.3mph already, not bad, I normally only start reaching that when I go through Westbury at 21mph. Even so I guessed that the short but sharp hill into Dilton Marsh would disabuse me of the fanciful notion that I might be able to up my average speed for this fourteen mile ride. However, even though I climbed at a rubbish 9.7 mph, the average was still sitting on 17.2.

Right, I thought, I’m going to see if I can manage to reach 17.8 as an average for this ride. Powering (for me anyway) out of Dilton and into the back end of Westbury I saw a fantastic sight. There are a couple of huge evergreen trees in the middle of a field of long grass and tonight the low branches were supporting around twenty or so children playing noisily. Against the background of the sunset it would have been a great photo, but it’ll have to stay a little magical memory as I wouldn’t let myself stop to take it.

Through Westbury at 24mph, some cheeky kids shouted gleefully that I was going the wrong way as I hit the A350. There’s a whole section of that road, from the turning to the cement works to half a mile along, where the surface is incredibly bad. It’s like a micro Enfer du Nord and it’s not much fun on an aluminium frame, there’s no flex to absorb the vibration. Past the weird roundabout at Yarnbrook, site of a recent fatal accident and still festooned with flowers, into North Bradley. By now my legs were aching and I had hit 18.6 mph as an average. It’s a bit of a slow drag into the village and I was trying to gee myself up to keep above 18mph. By the time I turned onto the A361 the gradient was beating me and breathing was hard, I had a double stitch, but my legs still felt strong. The hardest thing was trying not to think too much about Rode Hill, I knew that quarter of a mile rise would strip the mph off my average and I was dreading watching the digits fall on the computer. With that in mind I tackled the straight at 25mph.

As soon as I started Rode Hill I knew I was reaching the limit of my endurance and was in danger of hitting ‘the bonk’. Only the thought of the ignobility of trickling up the hill in the Granny Ring or, God forbid, walking the bike up, had me out of the saddle grinding up. Sure enough the readout was falling, I hit the base of the hill at 18.5mph and crested at 18.3. I kept the average up to 18.3 all the way home. There was still plenty of light around as I put the bike to sleep in the workshop. Recovery time was good, I was showered and sat down within ten minutes of arrival at the house. I’m really pleased that I managed to get my average up for that ride (14.3 miles) by a whole mph. I’m a long way off Time Trial standard, but I feeel it’s a step, or pedal stroke, in the right direction.

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