Last year’s Tourist Trophy adventures whetted my appetite for further exploring. Thoughts of long distance multi-day rides float around my head. I’m not interested in getting from A to B, or in the case of some racing A to A or even A to A to A to A, as quickly as possible. I’d rather take my time, have a look around, allow myself to get distracted, maybe not go where I intended. Stuffing a saddle bag (preferably one from Swift Industries) with a spare tyre, some tubes, a sarnie, a bag of jelly babies, a camera, and a few rolls of film and head off. To ride place to place and all the points between. Maybe not to return for a few days.
However, as much as I love my Trek it’s not the most comfortable bike over a long day, or days, in the saddle. I know this from back to back centuries between Bath and Brighton last spring. I’ve been looking at cyclocross and touring bikes for a while, thinking about what would be best for rides that involve a mix of terrain. The Trek has been bashed across the South Downs Way on occasions but it’s really definitely not built for that sort of behaviour. Between toing and froing from tourers and ‘crossers and back again a friend pointed me in the direction of Singular Cycles and the Peregrine frameset in particular. I was instantly smitten. Lugged steel, two tone paint, fork crowns, a bike that looks proper, but set up to take heavy duty tyres and disc brakes. So I now have a box in my living room that contains one. And once I’ve decided on how to build it up it will become a bicycle for adventuring.
Whilst this was going on Milltag invited me to continue to write for them after the Tourist Trophy pieces last year. I plan to do a few more Tourist Trophy rides to go to a few counties I missed out last year (and let’s be honest this project won’t be complete until I’ve ticked off all UK counties) and a couple of longer tours this year. However these will be as and when I find time and money. I needed more of a structure to hang the writing around. Also Ed at Milltag asked “What’s this years challenge?” I remembered I was about to enter my first audax with some friends. At 125km it’s not a particularly long one but with 2500m of climbing across the High Weald it’ll be a challenge. Pete at Milltag is a hardcore audaxer (is there any other kind?) so a plan was hatched to aim to ride a 400 or 500km audax by the end of the year. This may be slightly stupid but it’s worth a try.
The language of audax appeals – brevets, populaires, raids, randonneur – and control cards & stamps remind me of cycle touring as a teenager and collecting YHA stamps each night. Looking into the history a little bit it seems an audax would originally be ridden in teams with a road captain, where as randonneuring were ridden as individuals. Audax derives from the Italian for audacious where as randonneur doesn’t seem to have a direct translation from the French. However I like the way it hints are randomness and rambling, even if this is counter to what is involved when considering strict times and controls points. Random rambling isn’t really the idea but I like the word randonneur. So this year I will be writing a “Diary of a Novice Randonneur” for Milltag.
Anyway that’s the plan, so we’ll see what happens. I also notice that Audax UK will ratify solo ad hoc long distance rides which gives me an idea for midsummer’s day…