Cycle 196km, FNRttS

AM. Cycle 196km, steady easy, HR114(160)

5½km to Oxford station. 25.2km/h__ HR109(125)
98½km to Acton. 21.1km/h_______ HR104(160)
92km home. 27.9km/h___________ HR130(151)

The first FNRttS (Friday Night Ride to the Smoke) of the season and as I needed to get some night-riding miles in company under my belt I decided to go along (usually by the time I get to the night section of an audax I’m on my own, but in PBP I’ll likely have plenty of company on the first night). The plan for these is simple – if you live in London, catch the train to Oxford, assemble at the station and leave at midnight for a gentle amble to Paolo’s Cafe, Acton via Chinnor Hill, Smalldean Lane (and a tea stop at the top) and High Wycombe Tesco. The date is always selected near a new moon, hopefully providing starry skies.

It felt very odd to be getting dressed into my cycling kit to leave the house at 11:30pm. I stopped off at the post box in town to post a few startsheets for my Open 10 to those riders without email addresses, and then met up with the other YACFers at the station. We were eight, on a variety of machinery – three titanium bikes, three road-ized MTBs, a three-speed town bike and a Trice recumbent trike. We all had good lights, and negotiated the “lively” Cowley road without incident (but not without a few comments, good and bad, from the revelers on the streets). Once we were out into the countryside, the proper riding could begin, but not before Peter on the Trice had to stop and adjust his front mech.

It was a beautiful starry night (and warm-ish), ideal for riding. It was great to be bowling along at a relaxed pace, chatting, all lit up in the dark lanes. Occasionally we stopped to re-group and to tighten up Steve Kish’s loosening left-hand crank, spotting a shooting star or three. After Chinnor Hill we’d split up a bit and I went on ahead with Roger (the unofficial ride leader) to get to the top of Smalldean lane and prepare the tea. I made it all the way up this fearsome climb without stopping (as did four of us), scaring a badger into the hedge as I went, and at the top with Roger, fished the tea making stuff out of a hedge (planted there some hours earlier by Steve). Roger had a small stove (titanium, natch) and some plastic cups in his saddle bag and after the others caught us up we had a nice stop for a brew. It was 3am. Peter on the Trice had skipped the turning and gone straight down the hill to his home in High Wycombe – he was still having gear-selection problems and had decided to abandon.

We dumped the remains of the tea-making equipment in a handy bin at the bottom of the lane and headed down the hill into High Wycombe. What with the stop and the descent, I’d got quite cold, but some spirited riding along the A40 and a brief stop in Tescos warmed me up. I had a coke and a creme egg and we were soon on our way again. Coming into Chalfont St Peter we stopped to watch the International Space Station  pass overhead before tackling the last hills into Heathfield. Stopping for a breather on a bridge over the Grand Union Canal, we crossed paths with a couple of riders on their way to the village hall HQ for the 3down 300km audax, starting in less than an hour. We wished them a good ride and pressed on into London, the smell of coffee in the air through Ruislip as the sun came up, and then down through Ealing and into Acton for our destination at Paolo’s Cafe. I noticed it was right across the road from the Madame Tussauds artists studio where I’d posed  as the body double for Lance Armstrong’s waxwork in 2005 (see I am Lance).

It was about 6:50am, and we were all feeling a bit sleepy after a night out. I had a bacon sarnie and a couple of strong coffees while everyone else piled into their cooked breakfast. I was quickly on my way, back up the Uxbridge Road, following a route I’d half-remembered from the old Nicaragua London-Oxford bike ride. Not all of the early bit was familiar – the old route had snaked through industrial and housing estates and back alleys to avoid the main roads, many of which have changed, but once I was past the M25 and into the countryside the ride was on more familar roads.

My rear mudguard broke (pic) on a particularly bumpy descent before Cookham and rattled the rest of the way home, but other than that it was an uneventful ride. Not too much wind although I started to get quite warm in the sunshine, a good problem. I got back to the house just before 11am. Tired, I snoozed for an hour or two after lunch and then set about replacing the mudguard. I felt a bit other-worldly for the rest of the day.