Never try and equal your average speed if it’s windy and/or raining.

I took a spin along my 14.3 mile circuit through Dilton Marsh, Westbury, North Bradley and Southwick to try and get my average speed up. There was a heck of a wind blowing, but it rarely seemed to be at my back (John Hayes once said, we don’t get tailwinds, though we’re owed plenty), I skirted the edge of a dense black raincloud in the midst of delivering a sustained summer shower as I left the village, fat drops spattering the hot asphalt. Going up the A36 all I could hear was the wind, roaring in my ears like one long continuous peal of thunder, dipping my head to try and push it up over my helmet seemed to have no effect. Breathing in was no problem but it seemed to me that the wind forced the carbon dioxide back into my lungs and I was quickly gasping, running short on power. I hate wind, psychologically it’s so soul destroying, all that energy I put into the cranks for what? 20mph? 19mph? Standing up on the hill into Dilton Marsh the blasts were so strong I thought I’d stopped.

Hands on the drops then, the tall town-houses into Westbury offering me some shelter I began some high cadence work in the upper gears, the legs felt good, but the lungs felt bad. Near snarling with the effort on the A350 I seared across the garage forecourt at Hawkeridge, skimming the backs of the road closed signs so I could avoid stopping at the roundabout. A brief moment of tailwind, my God! 29mph for half a mile. Under the red brick railway bridge past the soulless car sales centres whose associated brands I can’t even remember. Toyota? It’s always Toyota. Rain just fallen here, steam rising from the tarmac, this is bad air, too humid, too heavily laced with exhaust. Then turn left at the Rising Sun in North Bradley, smack into a wall of wind, 16mph, 15mph, 14 mph, 12… No! stand on the pedals, push, pull, push, pull, straps too loose to be efficient, bidon up, missing most of my mouth with the effort required to keep breathing while drinking. Anyone would think this was Paris-Roubaix not fourteen miles round the country lanes and A-roads of Wiltshire and Somerset. A361 is murder tonight, cars too fast and too close. Water on the road, a fine spray cooling my ankles, nasty road-film forming on the downtube and plastering the hairs on my legs (not a good enough reason to shave them). Not even a decent sunset. Legs aching now, pulling off onto Rode Hill at 23mph watching the average speed suddenly tumble downwards, stripped off by the gradient, my precious mph, so hard won, how quickly it all disappears! Freewheeling before I reach the top, trickle over the crest, no strength left to turn the cranks. Legs shaking as I put the bike away, stomach turning over.

It was windy, I should have just pootled, what was I thinking? Still, bang on 18mph average, it bodes well for a calm day.

Now will John ride tomorrow? I have had cryptic texts about chest infections and wrecked back wheels, will the Tuesday Ride VI even take place? Will my legs even work tomorrow?

Tuesday Ride

In the afternoon I cycled into Trowbridge on the Brompton in order to gauge how long it would take me to get to the train station, 16 mins was the answer. As I don’t have a cycle computer on the Brompton I had to input the distance and the time into a distance calculator to find out how fast I went, I’m pleased to say that I did it at 15.5mph average speed even with a pair of enormous trousers on (though I was clipped up so I looked like a cossack). I nipped into Waterstone’s (Ottakar’s that was) to see my old chum John Hayes, a man so deeply into bicycles that he has pedals instead of feet. It transpired that:

a) Waterstone’s are starting a Tour-de-France promotion after the weekend

and

b) He would be passing the village at seven twenty in the evening so we arranged for me to tag along on the ride.

John didn’t do much cycling over the winter so by his own admission he’s carrying some extra weight, same as me really. I’ve been pushing some higher average speeds than him, but I suspect that he hasn’t really been cranking it, also he goes out mountain-biking on Thursdays and always ends up at the pub, whacking the calories he’s just burnt back on again.

The sprogs were playing up at bedtime, this in combination with the fact that it’s my wife’s mother’s final delivery day for her art degree and all the helping this entailed, meant that it was a close run thing. I sprinted through the village and found that thankfully he was still waiting for me by the pub.

We decided to head Warminster way. John led, but we found that with the extra wide margin on the A36 we could cycle side by side without getting in the way of the traffic. The going was easy and we could chat with no problem, that was until we hit Black Dog Hill. I took it at 12mph in a display of bravado and nearly killed myself. I freewheeled at the top by Dead Maid’s Junction, which gave time for me to stop wheezing as John caught up. Pretty soon we were on the Warminster bypass and enjoying the freshly laid tarmac. We got some respectable speeds going and I was even able to take a couple of snaps.

John and I on the A36, incredible speeds

We turned back into Warminster at the other end of the bypass, and John took me out along the industrial estates in towards Westbury. With a bugger of a headwind we took turns drafting, it’s amazing how much less effort you need when you are cycling on someone else’s wheel. I pulled away again on the hill into Westbury, but John hung back then snuck up at speed as I slowed for a roundabout, leaving me in his wake and having to put double the effort in to catch him on the uphill. I finally caught him in the centre of town, Westbury has a pretty fast flow of traffic and some quite nifty chevron covered corners, ideal for bikes going at speed. Back out along the A350, John’s bike is steel so he felt the mini Hell of the North that is the stretch by the cement works much less than I did. I took my turn at the front in the headwind and pulled us up the hill, then it was a fast gradient into Yarnbrook. John turned for home at The Rising Sun pub, with similar distances to go to finish the ride at our respective houses, we each put in 27.5 miles at an average speed of 16.6mph though John probably made it 30 by cycling out to meet me. We’re hoping to make this a regular Tuesday ride and maybe get a few others along as well. Cheers John.

Up early tomorrow to cycle to Trowbridge in order to catch the train.

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.