Posted by: audaxing | September 1, 2014

Gravel Roads in the Sun

On sunday I rode 200km, including 40km of gravel tracks on the “Old Roads and Drove Roads” event. This event is special as it uses tracks across the restricted military area and can only go ahead if the firing ranges are shut. It visits the lost village of Imber which was depopulated during WW2 when the whole area was used by the army for training



Posted by: audaxing | August 19, 2014

Two stupid mistakes to avoid when wheel building

I’ve built a Velocity Blunt P35 front wheel for my Karate Monkey

The P35 rim is so called as it has a 35mm outside profile. It has a massive 30mm internal width. This means that tyres are spread out to be even wider than they are with narrower rims. This means more air volume with the same sized tyres. Also it is possible to mount very wide tyres.

I’ve got a couple of Schwalbe Marathon Supreme 50mm size to fit on. When measured with a caliper the tyre shows as 51mm on the P35 rim

These kind of tyres will give a forgiving ride on poor roads and off the roads into the rough stuff.

When I was building this wheel I made a couple of silly mistakes. First, when I got to the stage that the wheel is “twisted” anti clock wise prior to inserting the first crossing spoke I didn’t notice that some of the nipple heads had caught on the outside of the rim. So the twist wasn’t correct, it was not far enough. This meant that the crossing spokes could not reach their correct 3 cross hole as the distance was too great. So I compounded this by only doing a 2 cross… of course it didn’t work. My only excuse is that I haven’t built a wheel in a while. In the end I started again and did it right.

Second mistake was using aluminium nipples. Normally I use “brass” nipples which seem to contain some kind of ferrous material as they can be picked up with a magnet. Why is this an advantage? If they fall inside the rim it makes them quite a bit easier to remove. With the aluminium nipples removing them from inside the rim took several minutes of shaking.

I have another P35 rim and I will be making an Alfine rear wheel with one of them, so the bike has fat tyres front and back.

Hoping to use the Karate Monkey in a couple of weekends time to do a 200km event to the lost village of Imber, on lots of tracks and military roads.

Posted by: audaxing | July 4, 2014

Happy Feet

The feet are one of the three contact points that take all your weight on the bike. What’s more, much of the energy to propel it forward goes through the feet. So your feet are a critical area.
Keeping your feet comfortable on a long distance bike ride isn’t a nice to have it’s an essential.

Specialized Comp MTB shoes

Specialized Comp MTB shoes


I find one of the main problems with my feet is the temperature of them. Usually this equates to being too cold. In the winter, due to poor circulation the toes tend to get cold and so uncomfortable. Big socks and specialist winter footwear can help a lot.

In the summer, it’s usual to wear cooler socks and shoes with vents. This is to prevent overheating. I’ve got a load of coolmax socks for summer use. Overheating isn’t quite as bad as cold feet but it is definitely something I’ve had happen in the past. But as I will often ride in the early hours of the morning, even in the summer it can be cold.

One effective way to control foot temperature during cool periods in summer rides is to use some overshoes. Put them on when riding at a cold time of night and take them off as the day warms up.

Toe wriggling

Despite my best efforts at controlling toe temperature I still get stiff and uncomfortable toes. I suppose this is partly due to the lack of movement in them during normal riding. So I make a conscious effort to wriggle them inside the shoes. This seems to help also.

Sorbothane inner soles

As the feet are a “contact point” they are taking some of the buzz and shock from the road. Normally this isn’t a problem but on very long rides it can be. So for last PBP I got some Sorbothane Double Strike Insoles They are a kind of shock absorbing inner sole and do seem to help. I have them in my summer shoes, the rubberiness isn’t an extra heat problem.

Rigid soles

As well as comfort the other issue with feet is power transmission. Riders who are more interested in racing see this as the major thing to optimise.

One thing me and the fast boys can agree on is rigid soles. Fast riders favour rigid soles as more of the energy is converted into power through the cranks and less into flexing the sole. Like a firm saddle a completely rigid sole on the cycling shoe also seems to to be more comfortable in the long run.

Many cycling shoes aimed at “tourist” cyclists that would otherwise be suitable for long distance cycling have a more flexible sole. This is so that the shoe can be used for walking as well as cycling. For long distance riding I favour MTB shoes that are intended for racing. These tend to have extremely rigid soles.

Cleat position

The other power transmission factor worth mentioning is where I disagree with the faster riders. The cleat position I favour is as far back as possible, near the ball of the foot. It is possible to generate more power with a further forward cleat position. But this puts strain in the arch of the foot and on the long ride this can cause problems.

SPD pedals

I also deviate from the racing road cyclist in preferring MTB spd pedal systems. Most of my bikes have Shimano PD-M540 SPD MTB Pedals This is because if you have to walk the MTB cleats are recessed and do not wear with walking on them

Toenail manicure

toenail trimming

toenail trimming

Finally, one last thing to mention is trimming the toenails. This gives just a little more wriggle room. Over long toenails can cause bruising against the inside of a rigid shoe toecap. So keep them as short as possible.

Posted by: audaxing | July 3, 2014

No drama

On a recent 400km ride I was making good progress when suddenly the drive train made a horrible noise.

Not what you want with 100km still to do

Not what you want with 100km still to do

The chain had apparently broken and wrapped itself into the chainrings

For once I did the right things. Here is my account of a good mechanical fix

How to do emergency repairs the right way

1) I went back and looked in the road for any other bits that might have fallen off. I couldn’t actually see anything

2) I carried the bike to a safe position. The problem had occurred on a moderately busy road with verges. I found a gateway nearby with hard standing. Ideal. I propped the bike against the gate

3) I ate a pasty. This is the audax specific side to repairs. Before you start getting your hands dirty you may as well eat. This make you feel more relaxed too.

4) Get out the tool kit. I hadn’t looked at the problem properly yet but it seemed like the chain. I will be needing stuff to fix it. I wanted to check that I had a spare powerlink first. I did.. the links I use are Wippermann Connex Connector Chain Links, 10 Speed They seem easier to join than other types

5) Find something to clean hands with. I was about to get oil all over my hands. So I dug out the package of tissues from the bottom of the barbag and got one out. When I am finished I will be able to use this without getting oil on everything in the bag

6) Diagnose the problem. I disentangled the chain. It seems to have jammed which made the chain go slack which meant that the power link came undone. So hopefully all I have to do is reattach the chain with the spare powerlink. One half of the old powerlink is still there. The other half had disappeared. A tiny black object somewhere on the black asphalt where it flew off.

7) Use the tools to do the job. The multitool has a special device – which is simply a piece of rigid wire with hooked ends – to hold the chain so that the ends are loose. This makes it easy to clip the powerlink together. Then hold the middle with pliers and remove the rigid wire. The chain link snaps shut. The multitool I use is a Topeak Hexus II Bike Multitool – Black,

8) Check the bike is still ok. With drive train problems like this I just hold up the rear wheel and try a few gear changes. If I’d have taken the wheel out I would be extra careful to check the brakes. All ok

9) Clean up. The tissue and nearby vegetation get 90% of the oil off

After I’d been riding again for a while it became apparent that the middle chainring is bent. I don’t know if that caused the problem or was a effect of it. But everything is now going well enough to get me home

Posted by: audaxing | July 2, 2014

top ten long distance cycling twitter follows

Here’s ten distance cycling follows for twitter…

Sophie Radcliffe

Always ready with an inspirational comment to get you out on an adventure


Newbie audax rider and interesting person

Tom Allen

@tomsbiketrip (Tom Allen)
Long distance touring cyclist

Dill Pickle Gear

Makes marvellous bike luggage and also a proper long distance rider

Emily Chappell

Frequently off on exotic trips. If not, biking around London

Visit Snowdonia

Pretty pictures and info from a loverly part of the world


Hardcore audax rider, Wessex series, the Pyrenees he does it all!

Mike Hall

Record breaking ultra distance racing cyclist. Also down to earth likable person

Joe Friel

Top bike training expert, great tips

Ultan Coyle

Works for Rapha, interesting tweets and ideas. Real long distance cyclist too

Joth and Emma

Joth and Emma’s tandem adventures! Mostly in the USA

Posted by: audaxing | June 20, 2014

Midsummer Sunrise

The long days in the summer are ideal for long rides. I had a few planned but due to family commitments at weekends they didn’t work out. So I took a days leave and set off at 9:45pm the night before to do my 400km “Avalon Sunrise” route.

setting off at 9:45pm  It's still light

setting off at 9:45pm It’s still light


After avoiding a badger scurrying across the road in Dunster at 00:30am I got on the A39 section to Bridgwater. If you know the road during the day it is often busy, especially in the summer. But in the early hours of the morning it is deserted. I’d had an hours rest, trying to sleep before I set off. However, by 2am I was getting an attack of the dozies. Some caffeine tablets seemed to work to fix this

Proplus time

ProPlus time

The night this time of year is quite short and one of the delights of this type of ride is seeing the sky get lighter again, then the birds start singing and finally the sun comes up

Sunrise on the old Frome Road

Sunrise on the old Frome Road

Cycleway as Art

The next high point was the amazing new “Two Tunnels” cycleway in Bath. They have taken an old rail tunnel that punches through the considerable hills at Bath and converted it into a cycle route. The tunnel is lit in a beautiful way and riding through it is like being in an art installation

Bath Cycleway Tunnel

Bath Cycleway Tunnel

I stuck pretty much to off road cyclepaths all the way from Bath to North Bristol. Then some nice lanes and over the Severn Bridge and back.

Severn Estaury

Severn Estaury

I’d not managed to find a good coffee that day until I reached the Cotswolds and McQuiggs in Wotton Under Edge sorted me out

fine cup of coffee at McQuiggs

fine cup of coffee at McQuiggs

As I rode around various villages I saw dozens of signs for Fetes, open gardens and other events happening next weekend: so if that’s your thing there’s a lot of it on in the English countryside!

Everywhere has a Fete on the 21st of June

Everywhere has a Fete on the 21st of June

Posted by: audaxing | June 13, 2014

No known fix

I decided to try out a fixed gear bike. I’d ridden a lot with fixed bikes on Audaxes (hi Phil) but I’d never tried it myself. I used to have a single speed bike with a freehub. I used this bike to commute in all weathers. I was quite happy with the single speed and this encouraged my thoughts that a fixed gear bike might be nice.

A sprocket

When you ask a fixed gear aficionado what is so great about their bikes they say, it’s simple, it’s light and it rides like no other type of bike. In what way is it special to ride? I would ask. And I have never had a coherent answer. But I know myself now. Anyway, that’s later.

Initially, I looked at getting a suitable frame and a wheel. Fixed gear bikes are pretty cheap to build up. Then Chris suggested I use a 135mm OLN fixed wheel on my Karate Monkey. This would mean that I wouldn’t even have to get a different frame. The Karate Monkey has suitable dropouts for a fixed wheel. Chris also supplied a cog (with 18 teeth) and a lockring (to stop the cog from falling off)

Once I had the wheel I quickly converted the Karate Monkey. The Karate Monkey will only use disk brakes and the new rear wheel doesn’t have a disk fitting. However, this doesn’t matter. Fixed gear bikes are road legal with only one brake, the rear fixed gear mechanism can stop the bike and so counts as a brake.

I left the front wheel as it was and fitted a Ultremo ZX 28mm on the rear. The gear I had set up was 65 gear inches. When I was riding single speed, I liked 70 inches so this was a bit on the low side.

My initial impression was that the bike was doing it’s best to control me rather than me controlling it. Launching off the first few times the bike tries to throw you off. Climbing hills was easy, I am used to doing this on an unsuitable gear due to years of single speeding. In fact it was quite fun. On the level it’s similar to a single speed also. I was wondering what the fuss was about. Apart from being difficult to start off it seemed very much like a single speed.

Until I went downhill

When I went downhill my idea of the fixed gear bike as a nice thing to try also went downhill. I was expecting to have to spin the pedals at a high cadence. I can do this and it’s not a problem. The trouble is if you have to alter direction or do something just a bit different the bike is ready to give you a hard time. Breaking hard for a milk tanker that suddenly appears around the corner on the country lanes? Steering is suddenly hard to do. Hit a large rock? You are thrown out of balance. Need to signal right and brake at the same time? No chance.

The special factor that fixed gear riders seem to like and enjoy is that it’s a bit like patting your head and rubbing your stomach at the same time.

Some people relish this kind of multitasking. I think it sucks.

To me, bikes are all about a simple equation of energy and motion. I put a small amount of energy in and the bike moves. Other than that it is pretty relaxing. The fixed gear experience is the polar opposite to this. Energy (mostly nervous) has to be supplied continuously or else the bike does malevolent things. Maybe some people like this kind of sado masochistic relationship, it’s not for me though. Another way of looking at it is as a cybernetic relationship, the legs of the rider become part of the bike.

I thought maybe fitting a bigger gear would help a bit. So I fitted a 16 tooth sprocket instead of the 18 tooth one. It helped a bit but I still had the feeling that the bike was out to get me.

After a week or two of this I’d had enough. This morning I needed to go to the shop. The thought of taking the fixed gear bike out filled me with dread. I took a different bike. I’m going to the pub tonight. Shall I take the fixed gear bike? In the semi-darkness coming back from the pub up some lanes? No way. So I can only use this bike now for very short pointless test rides. And I am not getting any more relaxed about it. Quite the reverse.

I converted my bike back to how it was before. It’s good to try new things. It’s good to learn what you do like. I might build up a single speed again

Posted by: audaxing | June 2, 2014

Bikes on the Kernow & SW 600

What type of bikes do successful long distance riders actually use?

Here are all the bikes of the finishers of the Kernow and SW event. This event is 600km, 8200m of ascent in 40 hours and is thought of as one of the UKs more difficult self supported road rides.

There were two titanium, six Carbon, three Aluminium and seven steel road bikes

Carradice was the most popular luggage choice

Battery powered lights were used by more riders than generators

Only 10 of the bikes have mudguards but the weather conditions were dry

Everyone had clipless pedals

All the bikes had drop handle bars and four had aero bar extensions

Most of the tyres were 25mm and two bikes had tubeless systems


Ti bike, handmade wheels, Carradice saddle bag


Carbon Ventri bike, full Dura Ace, dry bag as saddle bag/mudguard, frame bag. Hand made front wheel, Campag rear


Planet X Ti frame, Planet X wheels, Carradice Carradry saddlebag


Focus carbon bike, handmade wheels, map trap routesheet holder


Thorn Audax steel bike, rack, top bag, tri bars, Mavic Ksyrium wheels

Giant Carbon bike, Mavic Ksyrium wheels


Spa Audax steel bike, handmade wheels, Carradice saddle bag

Steel bike Mercian, handmade wheels, rack, top bag


Steel Bob Jackson, handmade wheels, Carradice saddle bag, Generator front hub

Aluminium Trek


Aluminium Fort training bike, Union Jack saddle, Carradice saddlebag


Aluminium Trek 1420, Handmade wheels, seat post beam rack, panniers


Look 585, tribars, seat post beam rack, top bag

Cervelo S1, handmade wheels


Steel Planet X Kaffenback, disk brakes, Stans Alpha 340 / Hutchison tubeless wheels, tri bars, Carradice SQR bag


Specialized Roubaix, disk brakes, Stans Alpha 340 / Hutchison tubeles wheels, tri bars, crud road race mudguards


Spa Audax steel bike, handmade wheels, Carradice saddle bag (NOTE: this is a repeat picture! There is one bike missing!)

Condor Fretello, Handmade wheels Carradice Barley

Posted by: audaxing | May 30, 2014

Top Ten Bikewear items

This is the stuff that I actually wear on most long distance bike riding events, because it works.

On Ten mesh base layer

Actual product I wear is apparently “One Ten Intimo sleeveless”

It wicks like crazy and seems to keep me at a comfortable temperature at low or higher air temperatures.

Trekmates® Polar Black Choob

Like a buff but mainly made from thin fleece. Keeps the neck warm and also blocks out the light when trying to sleep in unsuitable places

Gore Bikewear Windstopper arm and leg warmers

Back view

Back view

These are effectively wind proof but wick really well so they are useful over a wide range of conditions. They are lighter than carrying a seperate jersey + tights and give more flexibility over insulation

Sidi Diablo Winter MTB boots

Sidi Diablo MTB boots
I have these a size too big and with large socks on they make cold winter rides just a bit better. Very rigid as well as warm and breathable

Assos Intermediate Jersey

This is a mid weight windproof top. It breathes incredibly well and so can be used in a wide range of spring/autumn situations. Got my current one second hand. These are rediculously expensive new so I doubt I will get another one.

Gore Bikewear Oxygen goretex coat

150g including stuff sack, water proof and breathable. Nice fit with a long back for wearing on a bike riding on the drops

Specialized Mitts

I’ve had various models of these. The padding is excellent. The current ones I have seem to be lasting well too

Assos liner gloves

I wear these under the mitts. They breathe really well. If they get wet, they dry out. For rides that are not in the middle of winter ideal extra layer for the hands

Craft Hi Viz Gilet

Just a basic Hi Viz with a mesh back. Is somewhat windproof too. I feel more visible in it, even if I am not, in reality.

Helly Hansen Dry Revolution LS base

It’s not merino, it’s polyester. It wicks, it’s warm and it has a stretchy fit.
I’ve previously done a post on base layers. Merino is great but it’s too warm for me riding a bike. I’ve used merino base layers in the winter out on the moors and it is still too warm. It doesn’t wick well enough either. Where it wins is that it doesn’t smell over a few days use.
Anyway, the Helly Hansen is not any of these things so it’s good.

This list was inspired by

Posted by: audaxing | May 20, 2014

Some long distance bikes

Long distance bikes aren’t any different to any other bike, they just go further

I was at the overnight stop of the “Byran Chapman Memorial” 600km event at the Kings YHA, Dolgellau. I was considering if I should give up (stomach ache) and while I was considering I went outside and got shots of some of the dozens of bikes out there.

This is a Ribble 966, a reasonably priced carbon bike. I was amused that the number was very similar to the numbers that Look use on their extremely expensive bikes. Bit of marketing going on there.

This is my bike, a Specialized Roubaix. I’ve covered what I like about it in previous blog posts. But let me say it again. I like it.

This is a brand I’d not seen before but what I found interesting was…

…the mudguard mount!

This bike has a low spoke count, radially spoked wheel on it. I know Bontrager generally make good wheels but radially spoked? On a long distance ride that includes potholed lanes? At night? Poor choice, surely.

This is Neil….

And this is his bike. It’s a fairly typical example of a fast, steel touring bike. A few years ago everyone was on these. Now a lot of the keener riders are on titanium or even carbon.

This is a titanium bike showing the latest trend, disk brakes. I mean that there seem to be more long distance road bikes with disk brakes this year than previously.

This is a Principa, made I believe from aluminium. They are no longer made. It’s loverly and shiney, it’s obviously someones pride and joy

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