Cycling in the dark

So, following my lessons from last time, I recently tried my first DIY by GPS audax.

A DIY by GPS is an audax that you plan yourself and validate with a .gpx file from your GPS. It can be handy if there are no convenient calendar audaxes nearby, or you missed one due to illness, as was the case for me. I’m trying to get one 200km audax in every month, so this is a good fall-back option that I can arrange with only a few days notice. If I can manage a 200k audax every month until August 2014, then I should get the RRTY award.

What went well

  • Food. Took plenty of variety and ate what I felt like eating. I felt pretty weak around the middle of the day (before and after lunch), but had a BLT, chocolate brownie, apple and restocked the water supply. Towards the end of the ride I did feel stronger and this may have been down to a decent, but not too heavy, lunch.
  • The DIY route basically worked. I did avoid one muddy lane (I also had the route in OruxMaps on my phone, so it only took a few  mins to work out a simple detour). But generally nice views from the Westbury white horse and in the Cotswolds without too many main roads.

What went badly

  • Puncture after 3km. Unusually the front tyre went down. It was barely light and I considered pushing back to home and fixing in the relative comfort of the garage with the benefit of good light and a track pump. The roadside repair took longer than expected as the park tools self-adhesive patch (which had worked well on my hybrid a couple of weeks earlier), didn’t stick. I think I needed to clean all the dust off the tube before sticking it on. It is also a bit harder on the narrow tube. Secondly, the Blackburn mini-pump is seriously hard work, even to reach my target 60psi. It was tricky getting the thorn out of the tyre with only my nails (I settled for scratching the sharp bit off), so I’ve since invested in a cheap pair of tweezers. The whole repair set me back by 50 mins.
  • GPS-related detour. When creating the route on either RideWithGPS or Bike Route Toaster, I must’ve mis-clicked, putting the route point a few hundred meters to the left of a crossroads, when I needed to go straight on. When zoomed out this detour isn’t obvious, but was quite confusing on the road. I’m usually pretty alert when the GPS buzzes to tell me I’m off route, but in this case I had been on a straight road with no turn offs for the last few hundred meters and assumed it must be having trouble locking on. By the time I realised I had gone 1.5km, so lost 3km in all, with head-scratching time this was 10 mins. In future I will check the route in detail.
  • One of the worst stretches of missed-turnings.

    One of the worst stretches of missed-turnings.

    Darkness-related detours. Due in part to the earlier delays, the last 3 hours of the ride were in darkness. I have lights for the bike, but the GPS backlight only stays on for a few seconds, so I couldn’t see ahead of time where I should turn. Much of this part of the route was unfamiliar to me, so I had to rely on the GPS. Once I passed the junction, the GPS buzzed and I went back. In each case I probably only lost a few minutes, but I would guess it added up to about half an hour. I would use Bike Route Toaster’s 100m warning track points, so I’d get a beep in advance of the turn, but on a 200km ride these are too numerous for the Edge 500 GPS and stop working around 130km. A possible solution would be to use a headtorch to see the GPS more regularly.

So it was a lot longer than anticipated (12 hours out of the house rather than 10), but an enjoyable ride and promptly validated by the local AUK DIY secretary. So I’m still on track for the Randoneé Round the Year.

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