Saddle Sore – Reviews, Rides & Rablings – Cycling Blog

Category - Rides

Mason BokehTi Off-Road Shakedown

This was my first real outing with the Mason BokehTi off-road and fully loaded; 2 days of the South Downs Way.

I’d swapped out the 42t chainring for a 40t to make the steep, lumpy climbs a bit easier. I would have gone for the 38t had it been in stock. My plan is to have the 42t for the road and a 38t for off-road use.

The SRAM Force 1x groupset was ideal for this application. The gearing was good and the brakes were perfect, I didn’t experience any of the issues that I did on the Dorset Gravel Dash with the Tripster ATR.

The MASONxHUNT 650b Adventure Sport wheels and Schwalbe Rocket Rons were amazing. First off, they dealt with the first noticeable puncture (a sizeable 5mm gash) without any action needing to be taken. Downhill lumpiness was absorbed with ease and I felt no fatigue in the arms or hands.

Looking out over Harting Down

The 2.1″ wide Rocket Rons from Schwalbe are strictly too wide for the Mason’s spec, but on a dry route they performed admirably. I had taken them for a short off-road in Dorset after a week of rain and clearance was a slight issue. I think Mason spec 2″ so the Rons are only 2.5mm over (excuse the mixed units) but when I need new tyres I’ll be going 2″ for those wet, muddy paths. Thanks again for convincing me to go tubeless Cal.

My bum and the Fabric Scoop saddle have made friends, the seat didn’t even cross my mind which, I think, is the best a saddle can do.

Not strictly the bike but the Apidura luggage is a perfect match for the Bokeh and echoes Mason’s form equalling function ethos. Lightweight bike packing is en vogue and the market is rapidly expanding with that said I have no reason to have my head turned by any other brand. A better looking and functioning setup I don’t think you will find.

I’m certainly not technically proficient but the BokehTi gave me the confidence to go at it (whatever ‘it’ was) and more often than not I would come out the other side successful. I was surprised how at home it felt off-road considering how well it inhabits the tarmac – all it takes is a 30 second wheel change. You’d expect to find a compromise somewhere but if it’s there I’m yet to uncover it.

I’m not sensitive enough to tell what makes a bike feel good (or I’m not good enough at lying to pretend I do) but my insensitivity can’t take away from the fact that the BokehTi is brilliant. If my Tripster ATR was a capable jack of all trades then my BokehTi is the consummate master.

The South Downs Way

For those of you (assuming somebody is actually reading this rubbish) from Hampshire or Sussex you’ll probably be aware of the South Downs Way and have probably walked, run or cycled some part of it. If you’re from further afield you may not have heard of it: The SDW is a 100-mile National Trail that runs from Winchester to Eastbourne.

I caught the 12:08 train from Fratton, collecting Tim at Fareham en-route to Winchester for a 13:00 start.

The weather for the weekend was set good; 26°c, some cloud, no rain and little wind. I bit too hot for me to be doing this but I can’t really complain.

My new Mason BokehTi with Apidura bar and saddle pack was carrying me along while Tim was on a undersized Specialised something-or-rather MTB with an Alpkit bar pack and a small back pack.

Within 2 miles we were out of Winchester and on our first climb – a combined effort of ascension between Telegraph Hill and Cheesefoot Head. There started the relentless climbing and descending for the next 95 miles; SDW is like a 100-mile-long sine wave with gates. Tim got a puncture just after Cheesefoot Head and we started to wonder if we should have left more time for mechanicals.

I don’t know if it was because I was fresh but I think those early tracks were some of the most enjoyable, simple, smooth chalk paths.

Beacon Hill (13 miles) was the next point of note for us, from 261 metres up we could see the Spinnaker Tower at home. Shortly after we rolled to Exton and The Shoe Inn for refreshments – highly recommended.

View from Beacon Hill trig point

View from Beacon Hill trig point

For the next 23 miles we criss-crossed roads we regularly frequented on our Sunday rides, taking in Old Winchester Hill (18 miles).

I had couple of Cateye Omni 3 lights on the Apidura packs and hacked the little belt clips a bit so they wouldn’t fly off when off-road. Basically, I just use the Dremel to grind a notch either side of the clip that would locate a rubber o-ring. This did stop me losing the lights but didn’t stop the lens and 2 AAA batteries coming loose and flying off into a bush via my eye socket. Quite a shock but no lasting pain. Perhaps a little sticky tape next time.

At 271 metres, Butser Hill is the highest point on the SDW and provided the best downhill – a smooth uninterrupted descent into QE Country Park. Also, a mere 15 demoralising miles from home. QECP has a good café, water, and tool station. The tubeless tyres proved there worth as we climbed out of QECP when I was briefly sprayed with latex while a sizeable gash was sealed and we carried on without even needing to top up the air.

It was unnotable (not in a bad way, breathtaking views are a given) from QECP until just after Harting Down (32 miles) where we encountered the first sizeable get-off-and-push of the ride in the 19% climb that Strava labels as Knight’s Field Climb.

47 miles in and the sun was getting low, we needed to get to Storrington by 21:30 as that’s when The Moon stopped serving food, we were beginning to think we might not make it. Though only 10 miles left and only 1 major climb.

The top of Rackham Hill looking east

The top of Rackham Hill looking east

As we reached the top of the climb (Rackham Hill) it was 21:00 with 5 miles to go and 15 minutes ’til sunset (we didn’t have any lights that would make night riding practical). The descent into Storrington took us past our planned bivvy spot and think we both decided there and then that we weren’t going to be cycling back up there after dinner – it was 25% in places on loose chalk.

We arrived at the bar with 3 minutes to spare. One pint of beer, one pint of water, a Moon Burger and a trip to One Stop later and we were on our way to the nearest quiet field; head torch strapped to the Apidura accessory pack in lieu of a front light.

Lucky for us the sky was clear, the moon was waxing gibbous and 1 day (or night) away from full, it lit the field beautifully and we could settle down for the night without the need for attention attracting torch light.

Day 2 below the Strava and relive embeds.

Keep scrolling down for day 2…

We woke naturally on the Sunday about 05:45 and were on our way at 06:00. We tracked back to Storrington then headed east and re-joined the SDW at Washington. We had a little breakfast in the carpark, hoping we would find something more substantial along the path.

Of course we were greeted with a climb, up to Chanctonbury Ring (242 metres) but then a lovely long descent down to Botolphs and the river Adur, where if it wasn’t 07:15 on a Sunday we would have headed south to visit Mason Cycles. However, it was 07:15 on Sunday morning so we just kept going.

11 miles in (68 miles overall) we came across YHA Trueleigh Hill, they had a café but no one seemed to want to serve us so after 10 minutes of hanging around we stropped off without breakfast.

On day 1 I don’t think we met any other cyclists heading east and only few heading west, today we met a few and tagged along with a couple for a while. There was a cyclist (let’s call him Steve) who alerted us to the prospect of an ice cream van at the Ditchling Beacon car park (19 miles for the day, 76 miles overall). Our interest peaked and our expectations swelling we raced up the hill only to find the van was nowhere to be seen. We pushed Steve down the Beacon for ruining our morning and carried on. Five miles later we came across Housedean Farm campsite and at the reception shop they sold ice creams. Here we also met a solo cyclist from London who was riding similarly to us and had camped in Amberley – he had a Magnum and buggered off, I didn’t catch his name so let’s call him John.

We passed through Southease and over the Ouse to start a near 5-mile climb (with great views out to Newhaven) up to Firle Beacon – this was probably the hardest rideable climb for me.

It was then another lovely, long, downhill into Alfriston where we had an unplanned stop with a couple of door stop cheese and ham sandwiches. John was there filling up with water and reading the notice boards, he left before us. Re-joining the SDW from Alfriston is not obvious and if it weren’t for the Garmin we would have been bumbling around for some time.

On the hill out of Alfriston (the penultimate climb of note) I felt terrible, I don’t know if it was the pink lemonade, the iced coffee, the cheese and ham sandwich, the Polos (Spearmint) or the midday sun but I had to have a moment in a tiny bit of shade.

So just Willingdon Hill left, with its great views over Eastbourne. We saw John again and he raced of downhill. The approach to Eastbourne was fast and open, a pleasing end to two days hard but enjoyable riding.

I gained 70 Explorer Squares on VeloViewer too, and expanded my max square from 7×7 to 9×9. See more about Explorer Squares here.

There may be a 1 day assault of the SDW in the offing…

You can view and down the route (GPX) here, it’s from Winchester station to Eastbourne station and has the water tap/sources added at POIs.

See how I got on my only other major off-road outing on the Dorset Gravel Dash.

Mason BokehTi 214 Mile Shakedown

I took a long time choosing and it took a long time coming but last Thursday my Mason BokehTi arrived, along with an addition set of wheels.

On Saturday I had a 300km Audax (Wonderful Wessex which I have ridden before) and I wouldn’t normally take a new bike on such a long shakedown ride but I didn’t have much choice – I’d already sent off my old bike.

I hadn’t ridden anything over 100 miles since April 2015 so it would be interesting to see how I got along, relatively unfit and on a new bike.

For this I obviously chose the 700c MASONxHUNT 4Season Disc wheelset with tubeless Schwalbe G-One Speed tyres fitted and left the MASONxHUNT 650B AdventureSport Disc wheels with Rocket Rons at home for the South Downs Way at a later date.

The instant I got on the Bokeh it felt a perfect fit, something I had struggled to find the more I rode my previous bike, which was a prime reason for buying a new one.

I have a rule that I don’t like to buy products whose name isn’t 100% intuitive to pronounce; that’s why I’ve never had a Nissan Qashqai. I had to break that rule with the Bokeh – Bow Ke (as in kettle)?? Bocker?? But to quote Shakespeare “A bike by any other name would ride as sweet”.

The quality and detailing of the frame is obvious, with the polished MASON logo on the downtube a clever touch – something that everyone who looked at the bike immediately picked up on. The finish on the titanium has a delicate feel to it, achieved through bead-blasting which also de-stresses the Ti to increase toughness and durability; what Mason calls a ‘Structural Surface Finish’.

Don’t be fooled by its excellent aesthetics, form is certainly not over function. Take a look at the titanium 3D printed dropouts to get an idea what’s going on inside.

About 30 miles into the ride I experienced some knee and hip pain so dropped the seat about 5mm the knee pain went straight away, the hip pain continued for a while but eased quickly over the next few miles. The only other discomfort I experienced was from the seat, not that the Fabric saddle is to blame; that’s what happens if you put unconditioned buttocks on a new saddle for 200 miles. The saddle is attached to a Mason Penta Seatpost that allows for refreshingly accurate adjustment – particularly on the tilt.

The Hunt wheels and tubeless tyres in conjunction with the BokehTi frame are a revelation. I’ve always used 700×28 or 32cc Schwalbe Marathon Pluses because I valued puncture resistance over weight or control. Tubeless seemed to offer puncture resistance along with better grip and less weight, they didn’t disappoint. I genuinely didn’t know you could corner so fast without sliding or twitching about. I was encouraged to go for the G-One Speeds by Cal at Mason Cycles and I’m glad I did. The wheels and tyres coupled with the ability to stop with no effort using the SRAM Force HRD hydraulic brakes could make for some dangerously fast descents. The wheel\tyre combo also makes the feedback from the road nicer, rather than shouting what’s going they reassuringly whisper it to you. Less Brian Blessed, more Joanna Lumley.

The SRAM XG-1180 wide range cassette gives me 10-42, paired with a 42t chainring it provides a 1:1 ratio which was more than enough for the hills, on this ride at least. I can swap the front ring for a 40t if need be when venturing off-road. I think I only slipped onto the 42 on a few occasions.

Moving to a 1x groupset wasn’t much of a change as I never really moved the front once the tone of the ride was set, but the SRAM DoubleTap took a bit of getting used to. I was often too heavy handed for the upwards gearing and end up going down. Having the brake operate separately from the shifter was nice, having come from Shimano where braking and shifting could occasionally interfere with each other.

For the handlebars I took inspiration from Josh Ibbett’s round the world rig (he’s also using a Bokeh) and went for Ritchey WCS VentureMax, they have a flared drop which feels so much more natural to hold.

Other than not being able to pronounce Bokeh, this is my only small niggle: There is no bridge on the chainstays and thus no mudguard mount down there, however there is one on the seat tube. Mason being Mason though there is undoubtedly a good reason for this. Having spoken to Dom about this there is a good reason, Dom says ‘reason for this is to give maximum mud clearance and remove the ‘shelf’ that is caused by a bridge. That bridge is actually quite redundant, it doesn’t do much for rigidity and also it can lead to cracking on the inside of the stays where the welds are. So, especially for Ti frames, it’s best to leave it off!’.

I love the BokehTi, it instils a sense of adventurous confidence that allows you to take it that little bit faster and further: It’s never going to be the Bokeh that limits me. It wouldn’t be the first time that I’d been let down by what’s between my legs.

Being a whole, complete new rig it is difficult to attribute appropriate praise to the deserving parts so it has to go to Mason as a company; for designing the frame, their collaborations, their suggestions and the people (Dom, Cal and the others behind the scenes) who have brought it all together.

I look forward to giving it a good test off-road in July on the South Downs Way.

Dorset Gravel Dash 2017

Dorset Gravel Dash 2017

I arrived in Swanage around 20:30, parked up on the Seafront and headed straight out to find food. All the pubs, including the Red Lion (the start/finish of the ride) seemed to have live music on and were buzzing – not so good for someone looking for a table for one. I tried the new Harry Ramsden’s that had popped up since the last time I was there – closed. I ended up ordering a cheeseburger and cheesy chips from Dino’s.

Back at the van and the wind was buffeting, I decided not to stay on the seafront and headed up the hill into the side roads to find a place to sleep.

I was awake at 05:00 and feeling grotty. I started to have doubts about starting but ultimately I wasn’t going to drive all that way and not at least try. Let’s see how far I could get.

Despite not being a race we were given race numbers, my first race number ever in fact.

Registration was at 07:00. I arrived a few minutes early and was the first there, followed shortly by Andy who had bivvi’d in the woods nearby.

I was off my bike (because of my gearing issue) at the first climb, Nine Barrow Down and lost the group (Andy, Jez and Tony). I saw them again briefly in the near distance at Swyre Head but they disappeared as I stopped to take a photo.

Time and miles passed slowly; when I expected to be about 30 miles in the GPS unit said 14. I hadn’t banked on how much more involved off-road was compared to tarmac. To some degree you can autopilot on the road, not so on tracks and paths.

During every ride on a route I don’t know, I experience GPS paranoia, this time it happened on the longest (still relatively short) road section of the route, approaching and departing Lulworth. It felt like I was on tarmac for ages and I could see no other riders around so quite (un)reasonably I believed the GPS unit had magically switched route or rerouted me for no apparent reason – but as always there was no need to doubt.

The view from Swyre Head.

The view from Swyre Head.

At around 38 miles in, just after Puddletown Forest at Higher Bockhampton the route was very close to Dorchester, had I known this I may well have bailed out of the ride in favour of a taxi back to Swanage. I later learned that the other guys had stopped here for beans-on-toast and I had passed them.

12 miles later while climbing the 881ft feet of Bulbarrow Hill the group caught me and we pedalled to the half way check point together. It was fortuitous as I was feeling worse and ready to bail but they kept me going.

As well as the up hills that required dismounting there were also a couple of descents that needed a walk. Of those descents that looked just safe enough to stay on the bike these 2 nearly had me over the bars:

  • Nutcombe Wood Down is a -16%er that on its day is probably a fun descent but on this day, where the showers had made the chalk dust into a thick grease that dragged your rear wheel sideways it was difficult and once it had you committed, it then added deep gulleys each side of the greasy track that you couldn’t risk slipping into. Disappointingly for this account, everybody made it down safely. The KOM for this is 34 secs, we made it down in 3:29 secs.
  • Lanchards Lane is another -16% single track that temps you in with Bluebells and Primroses then smacks you with branches, roots and rocks. I ended up going first into this once and not wanting to hold anyone up I went as fast as I could, on the verge of death, speeding down the mud track until my hands were shaking off the brakes and was forced to safely escape into the Bluebells where I turned around to see people tentatively nursing their bikes down!

Another location of note would be Hambledon Hill, an Iron Age fort just outside Child Okeford. I can’t imagine anyone could cycle up this even on a dry day let alone after rain. I almost lost it a few times just pushing my bike up.

From there all I remember are some nice trails on old railways all the way to Blandford Forum. At some traffic lights at BF I mentioned to Jez I heard hissing, a few minutes later Jez had a flat; our only ‘mechanical’ bar Andy’s constant adjustment of his front disc calliper.

After that I remember a pleasant 5 miles through Wareham Forest and feeling homeward bound, I could get back to Swanage without any guidance from here and that psychologically felt good.

That good feeling dispersed in the later stages of the Arne RSPB nature reserve (Springwatch has been filmed there), I don’t know if I bonked (though I felt I had eaten and drunk well) or if the illness was taking hold but I had to get off and walk for a couple of hundred metres, the other chaps waited and got me back on the bike.

At the Finish!

At the Finish!

Then it was around Old Harry Rocks (a ride I had done in reverse a few years back while on holiday) then a final climb up to Studland Hill and Ballard Down with views Swanage. The last descent was scary but mainly rideable with the MTBers racing past us on our adventure\gravel bikes.

Back along the seafront and through the High Street to the Red Lion where more goodies awaited us from Charlie the Bike Monger and luckily a vacant table in the restaurant.

As it turns out I was feeling unwell because I had caught Hand Foot and Mouth Disease from my disgusting little girls and the next day it took hold good and proper.

There is talk of a Devon Gravel Dash, currently planned for one of the first weekends in October 2017. Keep an eye on Charlie’s site for details.

Cycle Up Snowdon

It had been a while in planning and I’d fallen out of cycling a bit while my bike was out of action with a broken ‘brifter’ but we’d set a date and although I wasn’t really up for it we left Gosport at 18:00, Friday evening (25/07/2015) on a 2 stop strategy to Snowdonia.

The bike I chose was the only bike I have, my Kinesis Decade Tripster ATR. I did swap the tyres from Marathons to Sam Plus.

First stop was Cherwell Servives on the M40/A43 north of Bicester. We had it our way at BK.

Second was an industrail estate near Oswestry about 11:50. We had KFC.

It was raining on and off all the way and that combined with various diversions and in a campervan that isn’t happy going faster than 60mph meant we were well behind schedule.

We finally hit Llanberis at 01:30 and found the 24 hour car park closed so we back tracked to a nearby layby and went to bed around 02:00.

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It rained most of the night and the sheep were bleeting from the earliest hours. We were due up at 05:00 but I think it was more like 06:00 by the time were fully awake.

Breakfast was those prepacked porridge pots and Weetabix breakfast drinks. Tim pissed about with his bike (a hardtail MTB) for an inordinately long amount of time.

It was 06:50 by the time we got on the road as we cycled the road from the layby to Llanberis village.

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Tim needed the toilet, all the public conveniences were locked but as luck would have it there was a bank of portaloos lined up for an event that weekend.

With the portaloo suitably destroyed we finally got climbing at 07:15.

It starts on a tarmac lane that gets pretty steep pretty quick and I struggled even on my wide range cassette. Tim on his MTB gearing seemed to be ok.

After the tarmac you pass through a gate and start on the Llanberis route proper (07:30).

All research on the route beforehand suggested that around 70-80% is rideable, and despite some early pushing this proved to be about right.

My ‘road bike’ gearing was not ideal but it was just about workable, while Tim on his MTB was naturally more suited.

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On the way up we passed a few walkers and a single cyclist decesending.

The weather was alright until the Halfway House at which point the mist rolled in and we lost the sun. It got a bit cold and as always I hadn’t taken gloves (take gloves!).

We summited about 09:20 which meant we only had 40 minutes to get back down before the voluntary bike ban between 10:00 and 17:00.

After photos and putting my spare socks on my hands we set off down the mountain. The mist was beginning to clear and breaks in the cloud allowed for beautiful photo opportunities that was disappear as soon as you got the camera out.

The path was filling up walkers and the decent was slow. It was no easier going down than coming up, I still couldn’t cycle the parts I couldn’t cycle when ascending. I sensed it was a little easier for Tim; though having said that he did come off his bike.

By 10:00 the track was full of feet and even parts that we could’ve cycle we couldn’t because of the shear number of people. It took about 1hr 15 mins to get to the bottom.

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I’d been to Pete’s Eats on a previous Snowdon visit and had fond memories so I forced Tim there and was a little disappointed. Maybe I had romanticised my last visit but this time we had over an hours wait for average food. I’d still go back.

Back at the van we loaded up and were on our way home by 13:00. We took a different route home taking in the views across the Menai Strait to Anglesey from the North Wales Express Way (A55). We didn’t get back until about 19:30.

The Tripster ATR did itself proud again, going where it shouldn’t really go and doing it well.

The cycle up…

The cycle down…

 

Night Ride: London to Portsmouth

They always seem like a good idea before hand and I enjoy them afterwards too but in the few hours just before I’m due to leave (when I should be settling on the sofa with some peanut M&Ms) I find myself hoping for a call to say it’s been cancelled. The call didn’t come and I set off to Cosham for the 19:46 to London Victoria.

It was cold and showers were forecast from 02:00 onwards, but for now I was on a warm train. Helpfully the train was understaffed and we had to change at Horsham but luckily the train was waiting for us. Don’t forget Megatrain if you are travelling to London (Waterloo) in off-peak times, it’s even cheaper than advance tickets to Victoria.

Me and Big Ben

Me and Big Ben

We rolled into Victoria and grabbed a sandwich (tuna and cucumber) and a couple of packs of fruit Mentos from WHSmiths. The delay on the trains meant I couldn’t get a pick-me-up coffee and we had to head out promptly. The Garmin 800 Edge was missing a square of map for central London (like what happened in Eastbourne) but I had pre-uploaded a route to St. Stephen’s Tavern just opposite Big Ben, it’s only about a mile away but on the busy, unfamiliar, dark, London streets it wasn’t easy.

The ride was organised by Hummers over on yacf, he had us prepped to leave at 22:45 and as Big Ben sounded (actually one of the unnamed quarter bells) we pedaled off. We rolled through Wellington Arch at Hyde Park Corner to pick up any later arrivals but there was no one there so we flew straight over to Putney Bridge to get out of London having to deal with the group fragmentation caused by all the traffic lights.

Although this was my first time on this ride but it is a regular event and usually after Putney Bridge they would head through Richmond Park but there was a deer cull happening so access wasn’t possible this time. The diversion took us between Richmond Park and Wimbledon Common to Surbiton when we collected 2 other riders.

Here is a song about cycling in Richmond Park…

From Surbiton to Guildford we moved to mainly minor roads and at Guildford (about 02:10) we stopped for first breakfast. The plan was McDonalds that closes at 03:00 but we couldn’t find it and after a chat to a few locals we learnt that it had closed down 3 weeks previously – since when do McDonalds close down?! Subway was the second choice and the single sandwich artist (cheese and toasted?) on hand dealt with us all (including a few Subway virgins) impressively fast.

Barry's wet patch

Barry’s Wet Patch

After my 12 inches (6 inches for Barry) we set off for Petersfield, at this point 3 of the group split off (I think heading to Midhurst). There was a long section of undulating road, I think the A286 between Milford and Haslemere that had been recently resurfaced and was deserted, it was a pleasure to cycle but you could tell this would normally be buzzing – the benefit of riding at night. At the bottom of one of the undulations I saw a bike lose control, do a 180 degree spin and roll backwards but whoever was on it managed to stay upright – top marks to them.

Another high point was finding 14 pence, 1p in Subway, 3p on a tray in McDonalds and a 10p piece on the floor but I can’t remember where that was from.

I don’t remember much more of that part of the journey over than being too hot but too lazy to remove any layers.

As we approached Petersfield a text came in to say there had been a puncture,  I looked around and smirked when I couldn’t see Barry; we continued on and I thought of him as I warmed my hands on a latte in McDonalds. We were well ahead of time so we stayed at McDs, drank hot drinks and ate tube eggs.

“…Barry pulled off…”

From Petersfield back felt like no time at all and after a climb at Kiln Lane it was pretty much downhill. At Rowlands Castle we had the 3rd puncture, it was Barry again but I stayed with him this time and took photos – the others carried on. With Barry reinflated we continued down towards Havant where we picked up another puncturee, the trio soon became a duo again as Barry pulled off at Bedhampton.

I’m sure I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: do a night. The naysayers always have the same two perceived negatives: 1. I’ll be cold. 2. I won’t see anything because its dark. Answers: 1. You’ll know roughly how cold it is going to be, dress accordingly, maybe carry an extra layer. 2.What you lose in view (though you still get to see a lot in the moonlight) you gain in the freedom of the road and alternative perspective of your journey.

The next one will be October 2015 , keep checking yacf for details.

Cyclosport Industry Ride

In the underground carpark of a Twickenham Hotel there was a man sitting on a chair, a man on a chair guarding (what I estimate easily to be) in excess of £150,000 of bicycle. Upstairs about 130 people drank coffee while we waited for the start of the ~40mile ride through the Surrey roads to Box Hill and back.

By the time the ride got started we had built up a sweaty mist at the bar that I’m sure will be lingering there for days. The riders self divided into 4 groups, 1 being the fastest, Barry and I choose group 2. This proved the most popular group, mainly of people who were too scared to try group 1 (like me) and too ashamed to be in group 3 (like Barry*).

The Hotchillee ride captains (we had The Bull (very nice chap)) kept the bunch in good shape and speed, and dealt with the few punctures that the autumn roads threw at the 30 or so riders. We maintained a good speed upto the infamous Box Hill, which turned out to be not so infamous; but its reputation preceded it and I ended up taking it much easier than I should have. Out of interest, on the Portsmouth roads a typical Strava segment would be tackled by some 1000-1500 people, the Box Hill segment has been attempted by near on 30,000 – no doubt in part due to the RideLondon route).

By now there was thunder and lightning and Esher, with about 7 miles to go I got a front puncture, I didn’t get the call out quick or loud enough to stop the bunch but 2 riders did stop: Barry and another, who turned out to be Dermot Murnaghan of Sky News fame. We had a quick chat with DM (he said he likes to be called DM because of its association with Danger Mouse*). When reinflated we all set off and Barry’s joy of being behind the Sky man was evident as Dermot sprayed in his smiling face (from the wet roads)*. The puncture was from a thorn by the way, and as it happens, when we loaded the bikes in the car at the end of the day I noticed my rear was flat, that too was a thorn. DM was a jolly nice chap and ended up guiding us back (at a fair pace) as we had lost the bunch.

Back at the hotel, we showered (separately) and ate the tea tray biscuits (Vienesse fingers and shortbreads) then headed to the bar. At lunch I had a good chat with Dean from Purple Harry who gave me some good tips on cleaning/finishing titanium and told of some new/upcoming products (the warming cream sounds interesting). The portions were impressive (Lasagne and Chocolate Brownie) and the pre-dinner tray food compared favourably to the recent bowl food. I don’t think DM stayed for lunch but I noticed he’d ordered the Beef Burger and Cheesecake.

After dinner Adam hosted a Q&A session with some names from cycle industry: Sven Thiele (Hotchillee), Simon Brotherton (BBC), Mick Bennett (Tour of Britain), Jordan Addison (Giro), Ian Whittingham (Sigma Sports), Ellis Bacon (Author (new book)), Gareth Nettleton (Strava) and Daniel Lloyd (GCN).

It was a great event, nice and relaxed with some nice people – thanks Cyclosport. We (VOXIT) were lucky enough to attend because of our work web work with Cyclosport and Hotchillee.

* These things may not actually be true.