Oasts and Coasts 300km audax event

On Saturday I rode the Oasts and Coasts 300 km audax cycling event, and decided it would be fun to also cycle to and from the start. It was a long ride – I left my house at 02:30 on Saturday morning and returned at around 05:00 on Sunday, having covered 413 km. Here’s the complete ride:

On the Thursday evening before the event I built a new front wheel for my bike as I wanted to use dynamo lighting for the front light and not rely on battery. I have dynamo lighting on my other bike which works very well, so opted for the same lights (Edelux II) and a SON hub. I’d had to work late, so didn’t finish the wheel until the early hours. I tested the wheel on my Friday commute – it was smooth running and the dynamo drag unnoticeable. Perfecto! But just in case, I also borrowed a powerful Exposure Strada Mark V light from a freind.

New H PLUS SON rim with SON  (no relation) dynamo and light
New H PLUS SON rim with SON (no relation) dynamo and light

I had about 3 hours sleep on Friday night and left on time at 02:30 on Saturday, heading out into drizzle. As per usual I over-packed, preferring to be prepared in case of emergency.

And only 30 minutes into the ride I ran into just such an emergency. As I was cycling along, the seat suddenly dropped down. I pulled over to investigate. My pannier rack was affixed to the seatpost clamp (due to awkward brake clearance on the Condor Fratello), but had pulled the clamp up and off of the seatpost. This meant the seatpost was not clamped in place. I tried to remedy the situation by fixing the clamp back on, but with the pannier rack attached it was really awkward. I gave up trying this and instead re-configured the rack to attach to the seat stay bosses – a more traditional mounting method, but awkward on the Fratello. Luckily I had brought an allen key with me to perform this operation (the park tool allen key set I also carry has the right size key, but not the required clearance to tighten the bolt). In total I had lost about 20 minutes but was pleased I was able to remedy the situation. The readjusted seat height was about 1 to 2 cm lower than it should have been but I left it like that for the rest of the ride as I was now fearing the seat clamp bolt thread (not the highest quality) would become damaged if I tightened it one more time.

To plan the route there I used ridewithgps.com website and went with the default route it suggested. I downloaded the GPX file to my Garmin 810 bike satnav. The route there was mostly good, with exception of small area around A2 which wasn’t pleasant so I re-routed this bit on the fly by picking some other roads that looked good which headed in the same direction, and then joining back onto my proper route.

Tower Bridge in the early hours
Tower Bridge in the early hours

It drizzled with rain most of way there.

Within about a mile of the start point I met with another audaxer en route. He seemed to be a much more competent cyclist than myself being a club member and not a stranger to audaxes. This was only my second. He commented on the brightness of my rear light which was reassuring.

We arrived at start (a large scout hut in Meopham) about 30 minutes before the event started. I collected my brevet card and got a cup of tea, biscuit, cereal bar and topped up my water.

Breakfast after 50 km
Breakfast after 50 km

There were lots of nice bikes to look at such as Pretoriuses, Colnago C60s, Condors, Mercians, and Genesis, all set up for the event. I noticed I was the only one with a full pannier bag. About half had rack top bags, and the other half making do with saddle bags and jersey pockets.

In addition to my pannier bag I also had a small pouch mounted at the front of the bike. I used this to keep a battery which I would later use to charge my Garmin on-the-fly. Another useful item I’d brought was a second, smaller battery pack, which I used to separately charge my smart phone when that ran low.

Meopham scout hall
Meopham scout hall

I should have taken a pen to write down notes in the brevet card but instead had to write notes on my phone. I used GPS to navigate the audax. They also provide written instructions to navigate the course. It would be really useful to also have a mini clipboard or other mount to keep these instructions in-sight whilst cycling.

The start of the Oasts and Coasts 300 km audax
The start of the Oasts and Coasts 300 km audax

I think there were about 60-100 cyclists doing the event. For the first 50 km or so I rode in a large group which then started to spread out, however for most of the ride (with the exception of the last hour or two) I would frequently see, or be cycling with, other audaxers.

I made a point at stopping for food at each of the café control points. This included fried egg sandwiches, brownies, paninis, chips and cakes 🙂

Breakfast no. 2
Breakfast no. 2 – a fried egg sandwich

The weather cleared up around 11am-ish. It turned into a Sunny afternoon, with patches of drizzle later on. There were a fair amount of hills early on, but then the route completely flattened out for a bit after Rye which was a nice change. This didn’t last too long though as the route also climbed up the cliffs of Dover.

The cliffs at Dover
The cliffs at Dover

For liquids I had brought with me some electrolyte tablets which I added to my water bottles each time I topped up at the control points. For longer rides of moderate effort I find they do help prevent getting cramp.

My palms of my hands became a little sore during the ride – I find the drop handlebars no where as near as comfortable as the Ergon grips I have on my Brompton. I varied position as much as possible. Ideally I would have also changed the seat height but was still paranoid that the seat clamp would fail. I’d do it if I cycled past a cycle shop, but this didn’t happen all day.

The coastline of Kent
The loneliness of the long distance cyclist

When it got dark, progress seemed to slow. There were long periods where I was cycling along with others, and long periods where I’d cycle by myself. The controls kept giving things to aim for.

The scout hut at the finish was a welcome sight. I reached it at around 11:30pm. Chairs, tea, cheese rolls, brought relief. The hall had a sprinkling of exhausted randonneurs, and as I filled in my brevet card and recuperated, every so often someone else would stumble in tired and relieved.

After resting for about half an hour I started to cycle home. I’d let RideWithGPS pick a route for me which went by the Thames. It started to rain as I set out.

When I reached Northfleet I came across a large roundabout where kids were driving dangerously, doing doughnuts around the roundabouts in fast cars. I decided to re-route rather than become a target for them and diverted through Swanscombe.

Within half an hour I was back on my pre-planned route, which wasn’t that great. Most of it went on the paths by the side of fast roads. Whilst they were protected from traffic, the road surface was poor as they never get cleaned, so contain lots of broken glass and rubbish thrown from cars.

The rain steadily got worse and turned into deluge as I turned onto the Thames path near Erith. The path looked good on the computer but in real life felt a bit dodgy at 3am on a Saturday night. Once on the path there were very few exit points – on one side was the river and on the other large industrial plants and sewer treatment works. Luckily I didn’t meet anyone on the whole stretch from Erith to Woolwich. I also expected to see some sign of London such as the buildings in the docklands, but had no view of these to spur me on.

The route also took me to the Woolwich Ferry. Not much chance of catching that on a Saturday night! From there I quit the route I had in my satnav and just hooked onto a main road that headed West via Greenwich and on to Southwark. With the pouring rain there were large amounts of standing water in the bus lane, so I had to frequently ride in the car lane. Saturday night drivers aren’t always the nicest, law abiding or considerate in the rain, so this bit wasn’t too pleasant.

The roads took me along the course of the London Marathon which was due to start in just a few hours time. I cycled through quite a few of the mile markers – constructions over the road that were festooned with balloons.

I was relieved when I reached Southwark and got onto my regular commute home – I knew I was just half an hour from home. At this point I was soaked, aching and tired, and saddle sore. Every bump in the road was agony. I frequently rode out of saddle!

In retrospect, ideal clothing for the day would have been – long bib tights, cycling shoes, waterproof overshoes, light s/s jersey, warm long sleeve jersey, light waterproof jacket, cap and helmet.

The most bizarre thing happened when I was waiting at a traffic light about two miles from home. I took a gulp from my nearly-empty water bottle. It made a sucking/squelching noise as the air went back into the bottle and from out of nowhere an animal landed on me. I reacted without even thinking and swooshed it away with my hand. As it flew across the road I saw it was a cat. It landed on the other side of the road and scarpered. I think it must have sitting above me in a tree – perhaps trapped and saw me as within jumping distance when I stopped under it.

As I neared home I had one final hill to climb – Swains Lane. It has never felt harder! But I managed to get up it without having to stop.

It felt great to arrive home. I poured a hot bath, got in and fell asleep. When I awoke the water was still warm, but the sun had come up. Bed felt amaaazing! Too bad I had to set my alarm for 2 hours time for my Sunday appointment gah!

All in all a great day of cycling, not without its challenges. Here’s my certficate 🙂 :

http://www.aukweb.net/results/certificates/2015/cert/?Ride=15-545&Rider=13929&Serno=PL549058

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