Yesterday I did my first ever double century ride. Prior to that the longest ride I had managed was 107 miles, so I nearly doubled that with a 202 mile effort. Due to the lockdown restrictions, I had to stay within a reasonable distance of home so I devised a loop based around the Gala Water valley that was slightly less than 14 miles, and then did 15 loops. Sounds like a crazy thing to do, and you’d be right, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while just to see how it felt.
An early start was called for – I was up at 3.15 am! Ridiculously early even by my standards (I tend to get up around 5 am most days).
I started at 4.30 am on the CHR. Weather was not too bad, still a little dark, calm but quite chilly. I soon warmed up on the bike. The first few loops went pretty well – I was averaging a very easy 110-120 watts as I had no idea what I would feel like by the end of the day. Only problem I had was my gears just wouldn’t work well. They kept drifting out, and after getting them sorted with the barrel adjuster they would drift again.
On loop 3, climbing a hill, I was brought crashing down when my bike stopped dead and I couldn’t unclip in time to stop a topple. I wasn’t quite sure what had happened, but when I tried to move off again, the pedals wouldn’t move. On closer inspection, my massive XT long cage rear derailleur had come loose from the hanger (which was why the gears kept drifting), the chain had dropped off the largest sprocket and the derailleur cage had caught a spoke, jamming the back wheel. Incredibly, the derailleur wasn’t damaged and I was able to put the chain back on and continue the loop. First technical difficulty of the day!
I planned to stop every 4 loops for a break – this was around 54 miles per section meaning 4 sections for the whole day. A nice plate of beans, egg and toast and some strong coffee and I was ready to go again.
So I started out on my second batch of 4 loops. Still reasonably early in the morning. The weather continued to hold which was nice. The loop had a hilly northerly push up the old coach road towards Fountainhall in the north, and then I came back down the A7 which was a little flatter back to Ferniehirst in the south, passing through Stow on the way. I occasionally stopped at Ferniehirst for a little minute’s break or stretch.
Right at the beginning of loop 8, I heard 3 clunks in quick succession and then my drivetrain started to sound rather unhealthy. Argh, here we go again I thought. Not a good day for the CHR! My return chain idler that I use to raise the chain above the front wheel had deconstructed itself and fallen off. I couldn’t find it anywhere, so I had to run the rest of the loop on a drop chain with the chain scraping across the chain keeper on the double idler under the seat. Not ideal, but I was nearly at the half way point and I figured I could change bikes after lunch. Here’s all that was left of the return idler:
I limped round the 8th loop and came back to the house for some lunch. Bacon on toast and more beans and of course coffee. Awesome. After lunch, my wife decided to join me on the tandem for 4 loops. Recently electrified with a kit from Woosh bikes, I powered the bike up to a point where we could get the same speed as I was getting on the CHR, which was around 16 mph average and still maintain my steady 110-120 watts. So I wasn’t really cheating, as I expended the same energy for the same speed. It did allow my wife to get a few hours in on the bike with me though which was nice.
The sun came out for 3 glorious loops, before we were hit by an intense rain storm on the 12th. We got completely drenched, and I was struggling to see the road with the rain being so heavy on my glasses. Here’s us before the rain hit:
When we got back to the house at the end of the 12th loop, it was getting on for dinner time so I had a more extended break, got some stuff dried out and had some dinner before heading out in my still waterlogged shoes for the last section on the Fuego. This passed fairly uneventfully, other than the fact that it was still lashing down with rain. This time I had my super long visor mountaineering hat on under my helmet which kept the worst of the rain out of my eyes.
The Fuego is a bit slower than the CHR and I was averaging just under an hour per loop. On the last one, it was starting to get pretty dark. My legs were feeling surprisingly fine but I realised I was mentally exhausted when I started hallucinating things jumping out the trees in front of me. Keeping the low profile Fuego going in a straight line on the steeper hills became a challenge as my sense of balance was starting to go a bit squiffy as well. I made it up to Fountainhall and then it was easier riding back down the flatter A7 to Stow in the dark. I was glad to be home – 202 miles cycled, 13 hours moving time, an average moving speed of 15.5 mph, nearly 10000 feet of ascent and a great feeling of achievement! I slept well last night.
It was interesting to compare the bikes at an easy all day Audax speed. I averaged 107 miles at 16.5 mph on the CHR for 118W average. This is incredibly efficient given the rolling terrain.
The Quetzal tandem doesn’t really count as I was using a motor to simulate the CHR, but I imagine if we had done it without the motor we would have averaged around 8 or 9 mph for such an easygoing pace.
The Fuego is definitely slower than the CHR, as it weighs 7KG more, has rear suspension, a small front wheel and has a Kojak tyre on the rear wheel. I averaged 13.5 mph for 115W. Still not too bad, but a lot slower than the CHR. This put paid to any ideas about using the Fuego for a similar length Audax – after 13 hours at the finish line on the CHR, I would be 39 miles behind myself on the Fuego, which would be another 3 hours cycling! I came to the conclusion that the CHR is the best tool for the job – very comfortable, stiff, efficient and super aero. You just need to make sure you screw all the bits on properly so they don’t come off half way through……