Chris Negus Memorial – 216km 19th Sep 2015, run by the good folk of the Shaftesbury CC at ‘The Uts’, Ugley, Essex
At the beginning of the 2014 season I’d tried to do this before – a 200km on fixed.
I’d been commuting through the winter on my fixed, setup with a 69”, and thought that was a good setup for a crack at an early 200 from ‘The Uts’. At the time my decision making was influenced by laziness as it was the only bike I had at the time that was ready to go with lights and mudguards.
The riding was fine and I was clipping along at a steady 25km. The problems started when I got tagged up with another fixie rider. He was nice enough but I got caught up in the riding at someone elses pace thing and, when I really needed a stop to refuel a skant 16km out from end of the first loop to the Uts, I skpped it to keep riding with this guy. I should have stopped. I needed to stop. But I didn’t want to be an arse.
That 16km killed me. It was the lumpy road from Thaxted across to Elsendon, into a headwind. By the time I got back to the Uts I was wrecked. Despite eating a mountain of food, I was too deep in. To my credit I did get back out on the road, but even after 10k twiddling I still felt empty, turned around and climbed into the car, dead.
A good lesson then, both in that when you ride fixed you can’t hide from your condition and when you need to stop you need to stop, no matter who you are riding with. No obligations!
Fast forward 18 months, two SRs and a failed PBP in the bag – hell if I can’t get around a 200 fixed now when will it ever happen?
Somewhere in the back of my mind there is the desire to do the Essex-Flitch bikes SR series fixed too. And beside all of that I had two things on my mind:
A point to prove to myself – I bailed on the PBP for dubious reasons (in retrospect!)
I am not sure that my super comfortable bike is actually fast enough, so I wanted to do a benchmark test, comparing this ride with the Wight > Windsor > Walthamstow I had done a fortnight earlier.
So, here I am on the identical bike on a slightly higher gear 73”, at the start of the Chris Negus 200. It’s a classic Essex lumpy route that consists of three loops. It’s a nice inclusive affair with four distances on the day all made up of various loops. The loop format is handy as it means you know you’ll get good food and you can leave stuff in the car, or make experiments with machinery.
My experiment was the fixed. My backup was my PBP bike – a geared Kinesis Ti Tripster ATR. Or ‘The Range Rover’ as I call it. The luxury option.
Isn’t it funny how you can get quite affectionate about the runt in the litter? This fixie is a rescue bike. It was sulking in a Cash Convertors on the Seven Sister’s Road, waiting for someone to rescue it. It had been given the courier treatment and covered in black electrical tape with shortie guards. I pulled it out – perfect size – bargained the man down and walked out £95 richer. It needed a new back wheel, I had a front spare, I put on a longer stem on it and a cheap old seat, added some mudguards, new chain and haven’t touched it since. Total expenditure around the £250 mark. It’s tough and a bit heavy (4130 tubing) and doesn’t really have quite enough mudguard clearance. The front steel fork is comfortable though and the whole thing is sturdy – a lot of bikes feel whippy in the rear and this is a personal dislike of mine. No problem here though. Got three winters out of it so far…
A few friendly faces at the off and some chat with those in their shiny new PBP shirts (not me!) and then we’re off. Not a massive field on the 200, maybe 25. I just set off at my commuting pace, around the 28k mark, just for the hell of it. This put me somewhere near the front pretty quickly. There was one guy on a Mercian who was clipping along and I could see he wasn’t going to be caught by the likes of me, so I graciously let him go. Then I was joined by Isobel and then a guy on a fixed. Hovering in the background were a couple of other riders, then the guy on the fix punctured and, social cohesion not yet having taken place, no one waited.
Oh well. I never expect people to wait for me if I puncture, so I am quite happy to head on.
About this point four riders from Crest Essex out on a fast one slid past. Isobel, still recovering from an accident but obviously feeling fresh, jumped the gap and took their back wheel.
About 5 km later I joined her – she couldn’t climb with the Crest – then, somewhere around 25k, there were four of us in a clump. Myself, Peter, Isobel from Hackney, Joff from Finsbury Park and myself from Walthamstow. Peter was from Cambridge but we let him be an honorary Londoner for a while.
I was feeling very good and, despite knowing that I would suffer later in the day on my 73”, I was emboldened to take some hills at a good clip and then took off along the lanes in the gentle tailwind. I passed the Crest quartet, the victim of multiple punctures, and got into the dutch nursery – second bike in. This is exceptionally rare for me. Checking my Garmin I could see that my average speed was way up on normal. I would expect 23-24k average usually and so far I was clocking over 26. Super!
I briefly enjoyed my superior form, had a coffee and then the four of us bunched up again to leave. Into the light headwind. No drama. We were still slipping along at a good speed. Joff was a racer who was trying out Audax, Peter was on his second 200 so didn’t know any better, and my aim was simply to keep ‘in the power band’ as much as possible. Isobel had openly confessed to being in recovery from a collarbone accident and only really capable of following.
No one minded that at all, it was one of those nice days where just clipping along through the gorgeous countryside was enough. It felt like it might be the last ride of summer and that we should be appreciating it fully. So I did.
And then I had a puncture. I was on the back at the time, pulled off and started fixing it, when the others turned back to keep me company. This was a nice gesture. Of course it did mean obligations were being created, but they were all nice people so better to commit to the group today.
I must be slowly socialising 🙂
As we were stopped the Crest group passed us… this was the theme of the first 110km.
And so we kept going picking off info points. Mostly Joff and I at the front – Joff naturally fast and me just keeping that gear rolling. He was unsure about doing longer rides – clearly he is fit enough (and young, so young!) so he wouldn’t have any trouble at all other than slowing down and managing the whole sleep thing on the 400.
Seems strange to be saying things like ‘a 15 minute nap can do wonders’ and ‘two hours and you’ll feel like a new person’ like I’ve been doing it all my life. Clearly I am learning something about myself when cycling in the twilight zone. Now all I need is a rain-soaked, out of time Brian Chapman to take things to a new level!
And then I had another puncture and The Crest went past. Again. My fellows had the double good grace to watch me change a tube before heading off again.
As we came in for the lunch stop I saw fellow Kiwi Nik and we waved and shouted at each other. I wondered why he wasn’t doing the 200 or wearing his PBP top (turned out he ECE’d the 100, I have yet to hear his excuse on the top.
Finally getting into lunch a little later than I had hoped, but then we have the extra 10k to account for 20 or so minutes, and there was my punctures. As always good catering here, I elected for a plate of beans and bacon, no toast, followed by banana custard.
A quick restock at the car. Joff has headed off quicker than the rest of us, so it’s myself Isobel and Peter for the last half.
This time we head over to Rickling where I have to stop to unclog a mudguard, then do a loop north over some big, testing rollers, then come back up the climb to Akesdon and then the shorter one to Rickling. Not massive, but the legs are beginning to notice that they haven’t been allowed to freewheel, and they’ve been told to get up the hills quick.
At this point Isobel calls it a day – she was aiming for 100 in old money, and has that now. She sits down with a celebration plate of beans on toast. The Audax high life!
It’s down to Peter and myself now. We agree to ride out the last loop together and we set off again, still at a good clip. This time down on the really flat run to Takely, then across the M11 and into the Hadhams before taking that lovely laney run back East. There are a couple of climbs here, again nothing big but my legs are really beginning to feel it. Not so much at the higher speed, but down at the middle speeds – 20kph and a lowish RPM feels hard. There’s a couple of short hills, one of which has me gasping and wondering if I will make it…
But make it I do, and once we’re up that I know the road back is pretty much flat. Job done. Quick cuppa then back in the car and home for a burger. Slam that protein!
All in all a very satisfying ride. I averaged 26.1kph before my Garmin ran out of battery, a good 3kph over my usual average speed. I guess the difference is in having to really go for the hills and having to keep on top of the gear. The downhills didn’t worry me too much and the 73 gave me a top speed around 40kph – not massively fast but then no one was bothering to overtake me on the downhills, so it must have been fast enough. Or maybe they were just being polite to the old man in the beard.
Also surprised that my bike setup worked – I have a long stem and low bars on the fixed to give me enough ‘crank’ around town, and that cheap saddle. None of it caused me any difficulty at all. Hmmm. After preferencing comfort over speed for the last couple of years I wonder if I have taken it too far the other way? A bit of speed is, you know, fun!
I’m writing this a couple of days later and feel a little tired but also have that wonderful buzzy feeling that comes when you bounce back from a good long hard ride.
So, looks like I will be *trying* the Essex SR on fixed next year, though of course I reserve the right to stop that insanity immediately if I need too. And it leaves me thinking about a RRTY, I missed June but even with the failed PBP I have 3 months now and commitments for a couple more events to get me through to November at least…