Mersey Roads 24-hour trike TT

Trike 678km, inc. Mersey Roads 24-hour time trial, course D24HR

24 hours: 411.521 miles (17.135mph) __ HR127(158)
+ 10½km ride back to the HQ

[Provisional results]

Course map: 24Map3

As usual, I had a very poor night’s sleep, my mind racing with the possibilities of the day ahead. But 9:30am came and we were all breakfasted and packed in the car, off for another trip to the “Mersey 24”. The weather forecast was looking better than ’09, when I packed in the early morning after 366 miles/20 hours due to getting too cold in the rain. I’d set out a schedule based on that performance, which should get me to 420 miles. On the drive over to the HQ we left a bottle at Malpas roundabout, on the connecting ride between Prees and the finishing circuit, in case I got directed away from Prees without having the chance to grab a drink. There was a fairly leisurely hour and a half to get ready, pin the numbers on my day jersey and night jacket and go through the feeding arrangements and my clothing with Jules and then it was time to roll to the start.

I’d set my trike up with the aero bars in the same position as the last 24 I’d done, although this would be the first time I’d ridden a 24 not using road bars and clip-on aerobars (it would have been quite a task to change the bars on my trike for this one event). I would also be riding my trispokes, and using rechargeable battery lights rather than my dynohub. Although I was a bit doubtful about the comfort of not having road bars I figured that the trispokes would be quicker (marginal gains, etc. etc.).

The first few hours were easy, we had quite a bit of tailwind down to the first long circuits of the afternoon and I paid close attention to my HRM to make sure I didn’t overcook it here. I was overtaken and then re-passed a few riders here – we were all gradually settling into our most comfortable paces. I was riding close to my planned schedule and when we were switched to the shorter Quinabrook circuit for nightfall I was feeling good, although with a little trepidation about the coming 18 hours of pedalling. As the wind dropped it quickly got cold and soon after 8pm I stopped to put on lights and my night clothes – jacket and knee warmers – and then we were off for the long night laps.

I was trundling along OK, although my battery lights were flickering a bit on the tar-and-chip roads – something I’d not had a problem with in night practice runs with them. It shows how much more the trike bounces you around, and was an annoying thing to find out right now. I had two lights and although they were obstensibly identical, the left one was slightly fainter than the right, weird. Anyway, I only needed to stop once for a battery change, and then again a little later to tighten up the ErgoStem I use – it was working loose on these rough surfaces. Both these things cost me a little time and I also had to stop in the middle of the night to pick up some thicker gloves – it got very cold at the Telford end of the lap (although the skies were lovely and clear). My hands had got so stiff and cold on the previous lap that we found it quite difficult to get them on. All in all, not quite the trouble-free ride through the night I’d hoped for.

Although I’d managed about 231 miles in the first 12 hours, I was starting to get very saddle sore and my right hip was starting to become very numb and painful. I twisted it badly in a skateboarding accident as a teenager and it always gives me problems in long rides – especially when hunched over tribars.

Dawn came, and we switched back to the shorter Quinabrook circuit for a while. I managed a couple of laps and then at about 7am I decided I needed a break. In 2009, as I climbed off after 20 hours I knew I wouldn’ t be getting back on, but this time I was determined to get to the finishing circuit. I had done about 320 miles and only (only!) needed another 80 miles to break the OCRC club record, my first aim. I figured I could manage a 40 minute break to rest my sore backside, feet and hands and still have 6 hours to achieve at least that, so I sat in the car for a bit and warmed up under a blanket while Jules got me a coffee from the garage and fed me chocolate brioches! (and a couple of Ibuprofen.) I dozed briefly and then it was time to get going again. I’d thought about swapping my wheels for the spoked ones at this point, but didn’t really have the energy to do it – it was just easier to get on with the riding. The trispokes were really battering me though. However aero they may have been, I was sure I wasn’t as uncomfortable as this the last time I’d ridden the Mersey 24 and comfort is a big factor in any 24-hour performance. At least my back wasn’t hurting like it had in the 12 – my raised bars were helping with that.

I felt very stiff getting back on the machine but was soon rolling along OK, averaging about 15-16mph laps before we were turned off Quinabrook and headed into the wind for the final ride back to the finishing circuit. Jules overtook me in the car on her way back to the HQ and she said I looked very tired along this stretch – we were fighting a headwind and there were some tricky hills to get over. The connecting road was busy and not particularly pleasant to ride along and it was with some relief that I arrived at the first timekeeper on the finishing circuit.

I rode a lap, picking up another bottle from Jules as I went past the HQ, and tried to work out at which timekeeper I’d finish on the circuit in another couple of hours time. Normally I’m pretty good at doing this sort of calculation in a 12-hour (in the recent Welsh 12 I’d worked out that I’d be finishing on the dual carriageway and would have a long trek back to my car, for instance), but here it took my tired mind ages to figure it all out. Anyway, another lap rolled past, I had a bottle of coke to try and perk me up a bit. I was finding some of the roads here really hard to negotiate on the trike – there were couple of really lumpy, bumpy sections that were just punishing on three wheels. I was spinning along the entire circuit in just the little ring now.

Finally the last lap came around. I picked up my final bottle – plain water – and rolled on for a further 25 minutes until I got to “timekeeper 1”, just a minute and a half after my 24 hours had elapsed and I could stop. Relief! I rang Jules and told her I’d finished and it’d take me about half an hour to get back to her. My hands and feet were very sore, my right hip incredibly painful, and the less said about my “undercarriage” the better.

I rolled into the carpark at the HQ, very happy and exhausted, and after a cup of tea and a sit-down, struggled to get changed and so on. I nibbled on a few pretzels and a cheese roll, but started to feel very sick and dizzy. Eventually Jules called over the sports massage woman, and she got me into the shade and mixed me up some isotonic recovery drink. Then I started to feel too cold and needed a blanket! I managed most of a second bottle of recovery drink before I felt sufficiently OK to get in the car for the drive home.

Jules drove us back home quickly (we stopped at Malpas roundabout to pick up the extra bottle, but it had gone. Maybe a marshal spotted it and picked it up), and then we just had to unpack the car and bought pizzas from the corner shop to chuck in the oven for our dinner, whilst watching Tour de France highlights. Despite a bath and a change of clothes I still wasn’t feeling great, in a lot of pain, and could only manage about half the glass of beer Jules had poured for me. Time for bed!

It was good to have achieved my primary objective – to beat the old club record. I’ve fallen about 10-15 miles short of where I though I’d finish, and had missed Jim Hopper’s VTTA age record by some 6 miles. I’d like to have put the Oxford City club record “on the shelf”, much as I’ve done with the 12, but it seems unlikely any riders will be having a go at it in the near future, we don’t have many that will even contemplate a “50” on a bike, let alone a trike. The old record stood for 39 years anyway. Can I be bothered to have another go and try for +420 miles? It would probably be unsupported, I don’t want to have to drag Jules up to Cheshire for a third time. Time will tell (and how quickly I forget just how much pain I was in for the last 6 hours of this event!)

There’s a video of the event, in which I can be seen riding past the camera a few times HERE. And another from Damon Peacock HERE, including my somewhat leisurely morning stop to remove clothing etc., ready for the ride to the finishing circuit.

Photos by Martin Purser:


Freewheeling, looking for Jules


Picking up my coke


Last bottle


Walking back to the car

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2 thoughts on “Mersey Roads 24-hour trike TT

  1. Absolutely in awe of anyone riding a 24hr TT, especially for that sort of distance. Superb effort Howard, and I hope the recovery is wel under way. Did I see that you’re targetting PBP?

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