In the last couple of years I have been dipping my toe into the world of Audax. For the uninitiated Audax is the art of long distance cycling with a rather more adventurous and self sufficient approach than Sportive rides. Distances vary but short events/rides start at 100km, 200km events are really popular and from there the distances just go up and up with through the night riding on 3,4,6 & 8 hundred km events. The Paris Brest Paris & London Edinburgh London are examples of the more extreme length events. Events are either Calendar organised on set dates or Permanent rides ridden on a whenever you like basis therefore allowing good days to be picked. I have ridden a number of these Permanent events in the Lakes & Yorkshire which has led me to a number of remote spots/routes that I might never have otherwise found. Entry fees are minimal to cover postage/admin costs and I could probably do 30 or so Audax rides of 100-200km each for the same cost that my Mallorca 312 trip cost in 2016. There are no prizes, no tee shirts, no toot bags. It's a fab way to ride. Routes are followed by either gps gadgets or from written turn by turn notes provided by the organiser - no arrows pointing the way. And if you get stuck it's up to yourself to sort it out. There is a time limit for events but they tend to be generous. And so to my most recent exploit. One of Audax's slightly harder challenges is to ride 12 x 200km events in 12 consecutive months. My attempt at this started last Sunday - and thank heavens I wasn't on number 12 as if you miss one then it's down the big snake to start all over again!!
The ride I was attempting was a 200km loop that started from Ambleside, thence to Keswick, Honister Pass, Gosforth, Hardknott, Wrynose, Ambleside and then an out and back to Penrith to complete the distance. Proofs are picked up en route (ATM slips/receipts) to prove that you've been through each location to avoid taking any sneaky short cuts. Living locally I knew the route, knew the roads and had ridden all sections in the past many times. I had a maximum of 13h 20m to complete the ride. The day started a little gloomy but improved with little wind - perfect.
Nice to get a few easy miles in from Ambleside to Grasmere, over the Dunmail Raise, along side Thirlmere, to Keswick and a first coffee stop and proof of passage from the Glaramara Hotel before the first big test, Honister Pass. Honister done and then glorious Buttermere and alongside Crummock Water.
And then, approaching Lorton I made the most blitheringly, daft & nicompoopish mistake - instead of heading for Ennerdale Bridge and over Cold Fell to Gosforth I headed for Cockermouth, Eaglesfield and thence to Egremont via Frizington et al. Flipping heck, what a numbskull! That added about 12 unnecessary miles on. A few miles then along the busy A595 led to Gosforth and a snack before the double bill of Hardknott & Wrynose. If you've never ridden these before, come and do so. Up and over Hardknott then along the delightfully remote valley and up Wrynose. Care on descents here, the road surfaces are rubbish to say the least.
Disaster! With one tiny cattle grid to cross at the bottom of Wrynose I had a few miles to go before a fuel stop in Ambleside. Now, I'm not a reckless, fast etc etc cyclist but going over that wretched cattle grid over I went. Shaken & a bit bruised I thought that would be it. Rear derailleur was bent but after a bit of sorting seemed to still be shifting ok. Got to Ambleside for a decision. I was a bit sore but not totally broken. Eat, drink, go on? Or head home? I still just about had enough time. On I went. The Struggle was hard, really hard - and I ride this road quite a lot. However, glorious to now be riding in the dark in the most incredible star lit night. Down to Glenridding and on to Penrith. This seemed to take an age and arriving at a petrol station for food and receipt now realised that I probably wouldn't make the time limit. I'd also found that the gear lever was shifting an extra click putting the chain off the cassette and into the rear wheel. Ok, don't forget, if in first gear don't click that wretched lever again. Return ride was much quicker. A way past the last houses in Patterdale I mis-clicked, off the chain came and wrapped itself around the rear wheel. Tried and cursed to get it out but no joy. So, 10-30pm, crystal clear night, carrying extra jacket so not getting cold, no mobile signal, rear wheel not going round, started walking towards Kirkstone Inn following Orion, no one in at 2 lit buildings that I passed and 2 cars drove straight past my flailing arms. Eventually a good Samaritan stopped, but no room for either me or bike. They took my home number, carried on and rang Lady B at the earliest opportunity. They weren't exactly sure where they were as they were on holiday and had slightly forgotten to mention that I was walking up the Kirkstone Pass. Anyway, a rescue mission was organised and a good chum came and picked me up. Home by midnight, wounds bathed and wrapped in clingfilm. Bike taken to shop the next day and off to Dr's to have wounds dressed properly. Now that's a bike adventure! Luckily the way that Audax works is that I can have another shot at this route at my earliest convenience. So my 12 x 200km rides will start in February, maybe with this one, maybe with one of the other 11 that I have lined up. Ta for reading.
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